October 31, 2010

Insulza's Insults? Please Wait Your Turn (originally posted Jan. 6, 2009

Apparently the Secretary General of the Organization of American States is not content with trying to keep 34 Western Hemisphere nations peaceful, secure, and prosperous. Jose Miguel Insulza, former (ie, not currently) Foreign Minister of Chile, in an official OAS press release, has blasted Israel for massacring "hundreds of innocent civilians". 

Full disclosure: I just spent the last few years -- in my spare time -- trying to inject a constructive respect for religious diversity and dialogue within the OAS. I had thought we were making progress.

Aside from the fact that not all the recent victims can be considered "innocent civilians" -- and most victims and all the intended targets appear to be militants at best, terrorist thugs at worst -- I'm trying to figure out what claim the OAS has over an issue already being addressed by the European Union, the United Nations, the Arab League and other international institutions with... some semblance of a relevant mandate?

As a humble student of diplomacy (I grant myself a B+ average), I understood that professional diplomats were supposed to effect a lessening of tensions and to make statements that will open new pathways to resolving conflicts. I fail to see how the OAS or its Secretary General can now follow up on what he himself labels his "absolute rejection" -- for its part, the United States has not always been so even-handed on the Palestinian issue, but...wow!

It may be mere coincidence that Chile has just hosted an international conference under UN auspices, devoted to supporting the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli occupation (but unrelated to the current hostilities).

Note to leaders of international institutions: please refrain from transparent promotion of national or partisan passions on company letterhead. Also, while I do not expect anyone to be "even-handed" on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, at least try not to appear completely one-handed; if you really want to hurt Israel diplomatically, don't squander all your credibility in the first paragraph. Even if Israel were the cruelest regime in the history of civilization, leave some dots for us to connect ourselves.

There have been too many truly innocent victims of Israel's current offensive, as there have been far too many on both or all sides in this longstanding toxic confrontation. It seems a mockery to suggest that all the victims of the past week have been innocent civilians, and undermines the legitimate concern about the dozens or scores who were not willing participants in the cynical and amoral attacks on Israeli population centers.

There are too many ongoing violations of human dignity in the Western Hemisphere for the OAS Secretary General to start calling plays for the Middle East. Unless, like the rest of us residing along the East Coast, he's hoping to get an appointment in the new Obama administration, in which case he may need to rethink his approach.

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