Saturday, July 18, 2020

Has Canada’s stand on Israel-Palestine conflict cost it the UNSC Seat

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United Nations Security Council meeting | Source: Cancillería Argentina  via Wikimedia

On the 17th of June, 2020, Canada lost its bid for a temporary seat in the UN Security Council, the only UN body which can put binding resolutions on the member countries.. In the competition were Norway and Ireland, which won by 130 and 128 votes respectively where the votes required to secure a seat were 128. Canada, however, fell short by 20 votes.

It is a jolt to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who had declared “Canada is back” to the world stage after the conservative government. He had personally campaigned for the seat but Canada received even fewer votes than what it received in 2010 under the conservative government of Stephen Harper. That is why Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre of International Governance and Innovation, calls it “embarrassing” and a “bit of a wake-up call.”

There have been many mixed reactions within Canada on the reason for the loss as well as the significance of this loss.

A professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs at U of T, Jance Stein, talks about how Canada in UNSC would have got trapped in the crossfire between US-Canada clashes. Andrew MacDougall, the ex-director of communications with the former PM Harper, says “UNSC hasn’t been relevant to global peace and security for more than 15 years”, implying that UNSC seat is not worth much.

There have been many reasons ascribed to the loss, the first and foremost being Canada’s staunch support of Israel. Canada has voted 116 times against UN resolutions for Palestinian rights, against Israel’s occupation, since 2000. It has also not opposed Israel’s planned annexation of the Jordan valley. “Just Peace Advocates” in association with over a hundred non-governmental organizations sent a signed letter to UN members countries, urging them to consider Canada’s votes against Palestinian refugees and illegal settlements while deciding on their votes for UNSC seat. It also pointed out how Canada considers Israel’s illegal territories as a part of it in trade, which is directly against UNSC Resolution 2334 which calls on member states to distinguish between Israel and its new territories occupied in 1967. As majority of the countries in UN show support for the Palestinian cause of a separate state and the well being of the war-wreckin Palestinian citizens, Canada’s unwavering support for Israel might have contributed to its defeat in winning UNSC seat.

Tamara Lorincz, a member of the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute pointed towards a more fundamental issue with Canadian foriegn policy management. He talked about how Canada hasn’t drafted a foreign policy to explain its stances on important global issues, hasn’t set aside enough funds for overseas development aid, has exported weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia, has snubbed negotiations on a treaty against nuclear weapons and many other shortcomings which make it undeserving of the seat.

This development, however, is beneficial for the Palestinians, since Canada would have supported Israel in the UNSC and opposed all such resolutions which may favour Palestinians and are critical to Israel. This loss may also force Canada to give a serious rethink to its Israel First policy. According to a poll by EKOS Research Associates, three in four Canadians want their government to oppose Israel’s annexation plans and 42% of them wanted sanctions against the country. There is also a campaign in Canada which calls on the Prime Minister “to fundamentally reassess Canadian foreign policy.”

It is too early to predict whether the loss of the UNSC seat will trigger some introspection in the foriegn policy circles of Canada or it will be business as usual.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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