Commentary | How the left lost its edge

Hyde Park

Like any McGill student, I generally like to think I’ve got all the answers – at least in whatever narrow field of study I have chosen to pursue. As an International Relations minor, I’ve taken no less than seven classes that have mentioned realism, idealism, constructivism, and any other “ism” you could possibly imagine. Consequently, I have always felt comfortable identifying myself as a “liberal,” in some contemporary sense of the word.

But I must confess that I’m baffled by how we self-proclaimed “liberals” seem to be currently representing ourselves in the media. In theory, I’m all for a liberal slant in the news, keeping journalistic integrity in mind, of course. Lately, however, being a liberal seems to mean picking and choosing. It means deciding when and to whom it is convenient to apply our principles, it means upholding human rights for some while excluding others, and it means valuing one human life above another. This is not what I signed up for.

Why is it that for nearly a decade, as thousands upon thousands of rockets and missiles have killed and maimed civilians inside Israel, the liberal press lay impotent? In the recent wave of conflict, the press has sorely lacked a comprehensive critique of Hamas – a terrorist group which exploits its own civilian population, using them as human shields in order to further their own political aims; a group which plants explosives inside its own schools, booby traps its zoos, and hides in and among families. These all seem fairly consistent with liberal ideals.

I’m confused as to why “our” press has chosen to omit certain facts which seem relevant if we, as progressive, humanistic thinkers, actually claim to cherish life over death. (Which is not the impression I get from Hamas.) We seem to have completely overlooked the fact that in a concerted effort to minimize civilian casualties, the Israeli military has dropped hundreds of thousands of pamphlets into the streets of Gaza, and made tens of thousands of phone calls to civilians in the region, warning them of impending operations and urging them to stay clear of terrorist enclaves. Nearly 40 Gazan civilians, children included, have been transferred into Israel for medical care, but that has also escaped the world’s attention.

Don’t misunderstand me – no crisis is ever black and white. The blame for war is shared by all parties involved, and all actors should be held accountable. But perhaps someone can explain to other perplexed liberals why we are suddenly expected to decry loss of life for only one group, rather than for civilians on both sides of this conflict. I am ashamed, to put it mildly, that my supposedly like-minded brethren have sought to portray the situation in Gaza as so appallingly one-dimensional. If this is today’s liberalism, I’d rather be unaffiliated.

Hartlee Zucker is a U2 Humanistic Studies student. You can reach her at hartlee.zucker@mail.mcgill.ca.


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