Sunday, November 18, 2007

When Words Mean More than Actions

One of the things that my mother stressed over and over again was that actions speak louder than words. I think she was really hoping that this was so, because it seems to me that if you have enough power, no one bothers you if your actions don't match your words at all.

Take the conflict between Israeli and Palestinian governments and their peoples.

Israel is waiting for Hamas to say that they recognize Israel's right to exist and will observe all of the agreements that have been made by their predecessors. But Israel never says that it recognizes Palestine's right to exist.

Israel says that it will cease building settlements, but it never happens. And there seems to be no consequences for saying one thing and doing another.

Roger Cohen gives a wonderful example of what I'm talking about today:

Eyes to the future, I refuse to allow the latest fighting in Gaza between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah to make me despondent, even when Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas leader, tells me in a phone call that: “Without unification of the West Bank and Gaza, Abbas cannot represent the Palestinian side at Annapolis.”

Zahar, a doctor, predicts the get-together in Annapolis, Md., will be “a unique example of failure.” He counters my inquiries about a Hamas recognition of Israel with three questions:

“First, what is the border of Israel? And what happens to Jerusalem? And what happens to Palestinian refugees in the camps?”

Of course, those questions are never considered to be as important as " Hamas recognizing Israel." But Arafat recognized Israel and even agreed to the Oslo Peace Accords. And we all know how that ended. There is plenty of blame to go around, for sure. But Israeli transgressions don't seem to count in the overall scheme of the world.

I'm a huge fan of Juan Cole and his new group blog, Informed Comment Global Affairs. Here's one example of why.

Ehud Olmert stated on Monday that "It is impossible to repeat that the 2002 Road Map is a strategic asset for Israel and at the same time to ignore our obligations. Let us admit to ourselves: We committed not to built new settlements - we won't build new settlements. We promised not to expropriate land - we won't expropriate. We promised to raze illegal outposts - so certainly, we will raze them." How much credence should we put in these three promises and what is the declaration’s significance?

Bismarck is reputed to have warned against believing promises made on eve of elections, wars, and weddings. It is probably a good idea to add to this list promises made on the eve of peace conferences. A new round is to start in Annapolis next week.

Then there is Cynthia Fitzgerald's story. She's alleging fraud against her former Texas health care purchasing company. While we hear so much about Medicare fraud and how we need to get rid of it, she's actually trying to do something about it. She says she was offered bribes and her company disregarded its own ethical rules about contracts and bidding. She spents weeks

Being one of those people who thinks that if you bring wrong out into the open you'll be vindicated, she complained to her supervisors. She was marginalized, and of course, fired.

I'm sure her mother told her, as my mother told me: "All you have is your integrity as a human being. Once you lose that, you have nothing else." This too seems to be related to the power dynamic.

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