Tuesday, September 21, 2021

OP-ED | 25-01-2020 10:38

Symbolism and pragmatism

President Alberto Fernández has chosen a destination laden with profoundly ethical symbolism for his first journey abroad, and yet the pragmatic prism through which he appears to view every issue seems to have tinged most of the analysis.

As the Holy Land giving birth to Judaeo-Christian values, Israel is rivalled only by the democratic cradle of Greece as the origin of Western civilisation, while the occasion – the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz extermination camp last Thursday – represented a repudiation of the human capacity for evil in its most extreme form. Yet this high ground was ignored as the mere surface of events by most analysts, who prefer to dig into geopolitical aspects for what they see as the deeper meaning.

Not that these aspects lack importance – this brief journey to Israel (not even time for the Wailing Wall considered obligatory by most visitors) could be considered a first step out of the Kirchnerite isolationism, dating back to that two-month period when the late Néstor Kirchner first humiliated then United States President George W. Bush at the Summit of the Americas in Mar del Plata and then severed ties with the International Monetary Fund via a full repayment between the end of 2005 and the start of 2006. The pragmatic prism would see this Israel visit as a reversal of this confrontational attitude towards the IMF as a strong signal to its main shareholder – not only because of the US alignment with Israel (which is sure to continue beyond Donald Trump’s impeachment and the November elections, whatever the result of either) but also because the Holocaust tribute was by no means limited to repudiating the Nazi past, also featuring harsh words for the “tyrants of Tehran” who have openly called for the “annihilation of the Jewish state” more than once. By participating in that tribute Fernández was thus distancing himself from that disastrous Memorandum of Understanding with Iran hatched by his Vice-President (and acting president during his absence) Cristina Fernández de Kirchner – which he has in the past called the worst mistake of her presidency – misconceived even in its timing, since it was signed almost exactly seven years ago on the International Holocaust Day of 2013.

The emphasis in such analysis is thus on making a smart move rather than doing the right thing. Fernández thereby gains in global terms with this gesture towards the US and the Western world potentially easing his debt renegotiations and even in regional terms too – given that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s debt to the evangelical vote causes him almost to overact his support for Israel, this presence at the Holocaust remembrance can only help a relationship with Argentina’s leading trade partner, which so far has mostly known only tension over ideology and Mercosur protectionism.

Yet above all this editorial would like to stress the importance of this Shoah remembrance as central and not just nominal – above all, the idea that the end of Auschwitz cannot be celebrated without a determination to root out its origins at source with zero tolerance for even the subtlest forms of anti-Semitism.

President Fernández should be congratulated for extending his pragmatic spirit from domestic to foreign policy but some vision and regard for principle would not be out of place.

related news


More in (in spanish)