Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Accountability versus Responsibility

Several days ago, I introduced the terms accountability and responsibility to help explain the concepts of Regret and Remorse. “In case you neither feel accountable nor responsible then there will be no regret or remorse. It is possible to feel accountable yet not responsible. Hence, no regret or remorse. Accountability may cause a serious emotion though: shame (regret) and guilt (remorse)”. Also see my October 15 blog.

I didn’t expect to see a “perfect” example in the global news within a few days from my blog and one which leaves zero doubt about the difference between accountability and responsibility. According to the Prime Minister of Israel, the idea for the Jewish extinction was not of Adolf Hitler but of Hajj Amin al-Husseini, a Palestinian Arab nationalist, Muslim leader, and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Following that news, the Germans immediately claimed full responsibility and denied having any doubt about their responsibility in the extinction of Jews.

Let’s first suppose that the Israeli PM was not plain lying. According to Wikipedia, Amin al-Husseini indeed actively opposed Zionism. However, that is only circumstantial evidence – at best. Even if Amin al-Husseini would have been able to convince Adolf Hitler to murder the Jewish population, then that fact would make Amin al-Husseini merely accountable (at best!) but never ever responsible. The Germans immediately understood this very important difference between accountability and responsibility.

The concepts of accountability and responsibility are often confused and probably even with a deliberate aim: “if you can’t convince them, confuse them”. This old saying was made popular by former US President Harry S. Truman but has an unclear origin that dates back at least to 1919. To confuse accountability and responsibility in this specific case – and at this senior level – is genuinely worrisome. 

The factual correctness of the PM’s remark is questioned inside and outside Israel. To me it is even less relevant as lying is – or has become – a second nature in Politics. The aim to confuse – between accountability and responsibility – is by far the most interesting part. Until now this remark seems to have united Israel’s friend and enemies. Such an aim would only make sense in case of a victim role strategy. In recent years, we have seen that – successful – strategy before in some other countries. 

A victim role strategy may – once again – be the start of an authoritarian style of leadership. Fear management is an excellent tool to bypass democracy. Yet, you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. A quote often attributed to US President Abraham Lincoln but Quote Investigator disagrees.

I used to be a full supporter of Israel but that nation makes it extremely difficult – near impossible – to continue to feel any sympathy. I have never switched to the other side though, unlike many others. In that dirty war nobody has clean hands. Today, I have little sympathy for both parties, mostly as they are reluctant to resolve their differences. Nobody will win that dirty war. It just takes time, many casualties, an outside power broker, and common sense to come up with a sensible arrangement. That area is now the home of two rather than one people. Cohabitation is the only solution. 

Dotan (b. Jerusalem, 1986) – Home (2014) – artist, lyrics, Wiki

Dotan – Let The River In


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