Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Foreign Aid Directly to Palestinans? Moderate Analysis Suggests Double Jeapordy

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The MSM reports Canadian MP Alexa Mcdonough, the NDP's foreign-affairs critic, is telling the Conservative government that a net reduction in foreign aid to Palestinians is short-sighted and counter-productive. She agrees not to give money to Hamas (hey Mackay, are you listening?? The NDP is giving you a lesson on foreign affairs! You should be embarassed!), but thinks money ought to be given directly to humanitarian groups there.

This is an important issue, and I'm having a hard time deciding which side of the
debate offers the better alternative. (By contrast to the NDP, others are advocating a total cut of aid, including to NGOs).

Making the argument in favour of donating to NGOs, you could argue that reducing aid to valid humanitarian groups just makes Palestinian society deteriorate even more, making Hamas control even easier, and allows Palestinian society to develop into a base for terrorists. You could add that this hurts innocent Palestinians more than Hamas.

Arguing against it, you could point out that the NGOs are infiltrated by Palestinian terrorists, and that the rampant corruption means that they'll get a cut of Canadian aid money. Besides, Palestinian cities are already home to a terrorist infrastructure; cutting aid can't make it worse than it already is. The argument that is strongest, in my mind, is that cutting all aid means Hamas has to apportion funds from its budget to what aid would otherwise pay. That means less money for Qassam rockets to kill civilians.

I think we should cut the aid. Palestinians knew full well they were voting terrorists into office. They can't say it's a surprise that the West wants to cut aid. Let them live with the consequence of their actions.

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At 4:52 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger Lord Kitchener's Own said:

I undertstand your "live with the consequences of your vote" argument, but I would say that in an area of the world not as familiar with democracy as we are in the West, that the message we might unintentionally send is "vote for who WE want you to vote for, or we'll punish you" which might tend to sour Palestinians on the prospects of democracy, and our credibiltiy as its champion. It's a naive interrpretation of the message we're sending, of course, but the Palestinians are democratically naive, no? I think we have to be careful about accidentally sending a message that democracy is great, as long as you vote our way. It's eerily similar to our "dictators aren't so bad, as long as they control you, and don't threaten us" mentality, which we still have from time to time, in this region especially.

Don't get me wrong, I support cutting off Hammas, absolutely, no question, but I do think there's an argument to be made that sending the same amount of money to the Palestinian people (however the government decides is best to acheive that goal) while vocally cutting off Hammas, and urging them to condemn violence and recognize Israel, is the better plan.

I'm not worried much about the PA collapsing under the financial weight of the cut-off of funds (Hell, the ISRAELIS would flood the place with money before letting that happen!) but I am concerned that we spend an awful lot of time telling the people of the Middle East that free elections are the way to go, and then slapping them on the wrist for not voting the way we wanted them to. Democracy is not second nature in a lot of these places the way it is here, and our words ring hollow if the message the people receive is "open and free elections are essential... but don't vote for THOSE GUYS!" and "the people should select their leaders... just don't select him, or him, or him....".

I'm not saying we should deal with terrorists or fanatics just because they were elected in free and open elections. But we'd best make sure that our condemnation of the people's choice is not construed as a condemnation of the people, or of our insincerity about our willingness to let them truly decide these things for themselves.

I guess I'm just more nervous than you! You say "cutting aid can't make it worse than it already is" and I think "... it can ALWAYS be worse...".

At 8:28 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger 425425 said:

Forcing Hamas to pay, from their pocket, money for domestic services that would otherwise be paid for in foreign aid dollars undoubtedly means less money to build Qassam rockets. At the same time there is something to be said for the extra power that will be necessarily instilled within the Hamas if they are seen contributing to public services. Does this proposal not run the risk of giving Hamas more power, at least hegemonically?

Cutting foreign aid money also makes us look potentially un-caring, painting the West negatively yet again in an already dismal relationship. Personally, I don't think that there is a 'safe' way out of this mess. Giving money isn't going to make things better, but neither will taking it away. Perhaps the best thing that we could hope for is a maintainance of the status quo, as scary as that may be.

Check out the blog that myself and some classmates from Simon Fraser University have created, if you have a second. Its organized around creating political awareness and action in young Canadian voters:

At 10:50 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

Lord K:
You're right that democracy is a new process to the Palestinians, but I don't think they're democratically naive. If they came to the conclusion that we were sending a message of "vote for who WE want you to vote for, or we'll punish you", which I recognize as possible, they would be doing so because critical thinking and reasoning are not highly developped in that area of the world.

Therefore, souring them on democracy isn't the problem. Rather, engaging them in the development of critical thinking and civil society is.

You make further good points, in noting that democracy is not second nature there as it is here. I disagree with your conclusion, however, that we're condemning the people by cutting off all aid.
That conclusion is only valid if we believe the distorted reasoning that we only endorse democracy if they vote for the candidates we like, so we're condemning them for not picking who we like. My point is that we can't act based on possibilities of distorted logic and spin doctors, or we'll see no end to poor decisions that aim only to please propagandists, rather than act based on substance. Spin is infinite; logic is precise.

Things there can only get worse if Iran gets the Bomb... In hindsight, we're debating the wrong topic!

Well, in case you didn't know, Hamas already runs services in Palestinian areas. So the proposal won't give Hamas more power, because they already have that power.
In fact, the services provided by Hamas are another argument for cutting the aid: their schools advocate hatred of Jews, and cite the old blood libel, whereby Jews drink other people's blood. Are these the services Canadian tax dollars should be funding? I seem to recall we have anti-racism laws here...
Being painted as un-caring for cutting our aid money is the least of our worries. Being painted as soft and willing to contravene our own principles by supporting terrorism is a much greater concern. If you were a terrorist, or one of their supporters who would you rather fight? An enemy with no backbone that says he'll fight you and then accomodates you, or one that says he'll fight you and then actually does. I think the answer to that one is obvious.

At 10:52 p.m., Canadian Politico Blogger lecentre said:

You might both care to read my post On Democracy and Liberalism.


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