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Commentary | January 12, 2009
Piñata Diplomacy: Tadamon! is no paragon
Written by | Visual by A whole new set of terms are under scrutiny with the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

“Allah will sooner or later punish those who transgress the rights of innocents.”

– Turkish PM Recep Erdogan

I did not closely follow the debate in these pages a few months ago over the QPIRG funding of Tadamon!, the Montreal artists “activist” collective whose name means “solidarity” in Arabic. Apparently the debate revolved around a certain Isaac Blinkovitz not wanting to vote for a QPIRG fee increase because he disapproved of their association with the Tadamon! collective. In light of the recent events in Gaza, I decided to go back and look at the debate, and at Tadamon! to see what all the fuss was about.

After minimal research, I’ve come to the conclusion that Tadamon! represents exactly what I can’t stand about human beings: we’re so damned opportunistic.

One thing that opportunists do is take undeniably horrible circumstances and use them to their own advantage. And not in a good way like that Hilary Swank movie where her young husband dies so she goes on a long vacation that he had previously planned out for her. Poignant. Rather, think of 9/11, which George Bush used to pass the Patriot Act and the New York Yankees used to finally ban spectators from bringing their own food and drinks to the stadium. (My dad’s rants about the Yankee Stadium policy were surely formative in shaping my political philosophy.)

Tadamon!’s bulletin is updated several times a day, and seems to be barely trying to convince even itself of seriousness. One of these posts on January 5 read: “Demonstrations in Montreal also targeted the Canadian government support for Israeli military actions in Gaza which have heavily targeted civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza.”

So, let’s review the situation. Under threat of untimely death, Hamas forces Gazan civilians to allow their homes to be used as terrorist bases to launch rockets at Israeli civilians. Israel warns those Gazans to expel either themselves or the intruders from their homes. But the mustachioed guy with the Uzi at the door doesn’t like either of those options. Israel, because it (justifiably, and unlike Hamas) ranks the protection of its own citizens as its first priority, bombs the home, killing the captives with the captors. And Tadamon! says that Israel has “heavily targeted civilians?”

Let’s lower the rhetoric decrying Israel’s “disproportionate response.” The American cartoonist Chip Bok had an excellent cartoon last weekend depicting an Israeli soldier, in the first panel saying, “The UN is calling for a proportional response.” In the next frame, the soldier is lighting a fuse and says, “Random rockets aimed at civilians.”

Those who raise the disproportionality issue fail to convince me that Hamas’s ineptitude and inefficient weaponry somehow relieve them of the moral responsibility for trying.

Furthermore, high Palestinian deaths hurt the public relations cause of the Israelis more than it hurts the political cause of Hamas, and Hamas knows it. Israel knows it too. What does Tadamon! think is Israel’s reason for “targeting civilians?” Spreading the blood of non-Jews on their heads for Passover, as one commentator sarcastically offered?

Let me make this clear: If Israeli soldiers die, Hamas wins. If Israeli civilians die, Hamas wins. If Palestinian civilians die, Hamas wins. The only way for Israel to win is to kill Hamas soldiers, but that’s hard when they hide behind the horribly literal skirts of Gazan civilians.

But do not consider my defense of Israel an absolute one. Israel needs to publicly define its goals. Those goals need to be reachable. Are you taking out the tunnels or are you taking out Hamas? I sympathize with the need to keep this information away from Hamas, but I resent being asked to continue to support a military effort the intended results of which I have not yet been fully informed.

Yes, Israel has made mistakes, both moral and political. But let us not oversimplify. More importantly, let us (if I may be so bold as to say there is an us) never allow the nihilists to use our own morality against us.

Ricky’s column appears every Monday. Send your literal skirst to pinatadiplomacy@mcgilldaily.com.

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