What’s in a (political) label?
As election results came in from Israel, Reuters referred to "the center-left Kadima party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni," while a num...
As election results came in from Israel, Reuters referred to "the center-left Kadima party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni," while a number of media around the world called Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party "ultranationalist." The latter party's youth wing ended a pre-election rally with chants of "Death to the Arabs!" while its leaders ran on a platform of stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship and "dealing with them like Hamas."
Livni, for her part, will have to watch where she travels due to an international outcry for investigation and prosecution of those responsible for recent war crimes by both Hamas and Israeli forces.
How nice, if you advocate genocide, to be called "ultranationalist." How nice to lead a government that shells schools, hospitals, ambulances, UN offices and the international press corps and get described as "center-left."
And on the Palestinian side, Mahmoud Abbas is dubbed the "moderate" and Hamas are the "extremists."
Abbas, the leader of the faction that stole the 2006 Fatah primary from Marwan Barghouti's slate, got smashed by Hamas in the ensuing general elections, then tried not to recognize the results and set into motion a train of events that divided the Palestinian territories? Some "moderate."
Calling Hamas "extremist" is closer to the mark, but why can't they be "ultranationalist" like Israel Beiteinu? Maybe because they're for a worldwide Islamic caliphate more than for an independent Palestine, and thus fit better into a "religious right" box than a "nationalist" one?
Meanwhile, here on the other side of the planet, Ricardo Martinelli --- a man of the right in the traditional sense --- has been portraying his PRD opponent Balbina Herrera as a "Chavista," an ultraleftist who would take orders from Venezuela if she gets to be the president of Panama.
Well, yes, the PRD is a member of the Socialist International. However, Balbina Herrera SA is a wholly owned subsidiary of certain real estate and construction interests. Balbina's not a leftist, she's a chameleon. She's not for "the broad masses of workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals," she's for Balbina Herrera first, foremost and always.
Martinelli is a rightist on economic matters, but if his thinking on that subject pretty closely matches that of Joe the Plumber, he doesn't carry the anti-science and pro-torture baggage of the recently departed US administration. A made in the USA label doesn't well describe him.
Me? I'm a man of the left. I come from the Gringo tradition best identified with the slogan used a century ago by both Big Bill Haywood's Industrial Workers of the World and Eugene Debs's Socialist Party: "An injury to one is an injury to all."
So if you are a journalist and you believe that, what must you believe about the 23 journalists held among Cuba's political prisoners? I'm no scab --- I say free those guys forthwith, even if I might find some of their politics despicable. So does that make me a rightist?
A lot of old-fashioned political labels look pretty silly these days. A spectrum derived from where politicians sat during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century isn't always useful to describe what's happening in 21st century politics.