Commentary by Hassan El Akhras

September 7th, 2006 | Posted in Repression, War and Terror
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The following letter was sent by Hassan El Akhras to the National Post in response to an article about the killing of the El Akhras family published in that newspaper. The Post has refused to publish this letter.

23 August 2006

Sunday July 16 was the darkest day of my life. I lost 12 members of my family. They include my father, Ali El Akhras, my cousin, Ali Al-Akhrass, and his wife, Amira, and their four children, aged 1 to 8: Salam (which means ‘Peace’), Ahmad, Zeinab and Saja as well as the children’s grandmother Haniya Al-Akhrass.

Their bodies were crushed under the rubble of our house in the southern Lebanese village of Aytaroun. Their lives were cut short by the Israeli shelling of their hideout from the bombs.

I received news of the tragedy here in Montreal as I was taking part in a rally to call for an end to the Israeli attack on Lebanon. I knew then there was nothing I could do to bring my family back to life. But I was determined to exert every effort to make sure other innocent civilians did not meet the same terrible fate and that our government in Ottawa called for an immediate ceasefire in accordance with the values of promoting peace and justice our foreign policy is supposed to be based on.

Despite the gravity of my loss, I swallowed my grief and devoted myself to further efforts that called for an end to the war and the Israeli aggression on Lebanon. What I did not realize at the time, and to which my attention was drawn a couple of days ago by a friend, was that in the midst of my dealing with the calamity, National Post writer Barbara Kay published an article three days after the killing of my family about the subject [re-printed below]. In it, she had spared no effort to insult the memory of my loved ones who perished in the attack and to accuse me and the surviving remainder of my family of supporting terrorism.

My family was my rock. My caring father, my first cousin, and his innocent and joyful childrens Saja, Zeinab, Ahmad and Salam were blessings in my life.

But according to Ms. Kay, my family was mere “collateral damage” in an Israeli raid on Hezbollah “infrastructure.” Were the bones and flesh of my family, or the walls, roof, windows and doors of my family’s house the Hezbollah infrastructure she refers to?

According to eyewitnesses, who are much more qualified to testify on what happened than Ms. Kay sitting in her safe office thousands of miles away, there was no sign of Hezbollah fighters near the house.

In fact throughout the war, Israel has killed over 1100 Lebanese civilians in circumstances that leave no doubt the attacks were indiscriminate and, at times, a deliberate targeting of civilians. International human rights organizations have cast serious doubts on Israeli tactics.  Amnesty International has called Israel’s use of force “disproportionate” and the U.N. Human Rights Council has condemned the Israeli attacks and warned of potential war crimes having been committed. Kay failed to mention the international reaction to this Israeli aggression and, instead, chose to accuse my family, singling me out in her article, of supporting terrorism and backing Hezbollah.

It is hightime Kay retracted her defamatory statements about me and my family and issued a public apology in the same space she devoted to her column on July 19.

Kay might not approve of Hezbollah, and I don’t subscribe to its ideology. But in South Lebanon, the lives of ordinary people were turned into hell by a decades-long Israeli occupation of their land. These ordinary people only regained their freedom, dignity, and livelihoods after Hezbollah drove out the Israelis in 2000. Indeed, the majority of countries in the World as well as the European Union, do not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The Lebanese government, and the vast majority of Lebanese don’t either. They may disagree with the Shiite group on many political issues, but they know who is to blame for the destruction of their country. It is the Israeli government.

                    – Hassan El Akhras

Here is the racist National Post article:

Lebanese, Canadian – and enemies of Hezbollah

Barbara Kay, National Post
Published: Wednesday, July 19, 2006

MONTREAL – Normally, when a dual-passport Canadian accidentally perishes in the chaos of war abroad, sympathy is duly expressed, and the news treadmill pushes on. But when almost an entire Canadian family is wiped out simply for being in their former home at the wrong time, shock waves ripple beyond sympathy to wariness, even fear, of grim consequences in Canada.

Eight members of the Al-Akhras family of Montreal, vacationing in their ancestral village of Aitaroun in southern Lebanon, died Sunday as collateral damage in an Israeli bombing raid against Hezbollah infrastructure. Half of Canada’s nearly 500,000 Lebanese Canadians live in and around Montreal. The city is no stranger to politically-motivated reprisals for Israel’s perceived sins, so local Jewish antennae were set a-quiver by this news.

Hassan Al-Akhras, son, nephew and cousin to the victims — four adults, four children aged one to eight — had been planning, with his sister, to join his family yesterday, before all flights to Lebanon were cancelled. News of the tragedy reached the 31-year old Al-Akhras by cellphone. At the time, ironically enough, he and his sister Hanan were marching in downtown Montreal, one of a 1,000-strong anti-war protest, organized by the ad hoc Montreal Lebanese Committee. Many fellow marchers made odd bedfellow, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah supporters united in common enmity against Israel, George Bush — and Stephen Harper.

Some Montreal demonstrators, holding or wearing Lebanese flags, brandished placards shouting, “Israel assassin, Canada complice!” Others held signs with Stephen Harper’s image: “We were stupid for voting for you.” “[My family] are all martyrs”, Hassan declared after hearing the bad news, and in a direct statement to Harper, “Tell Israel to stop the bombing.”

It is one of those strange historical coincidences that at the very moment the Al-Akhrases were felled as a result of reaction to terrorist aggression, their survivors were publicly engaged in implicit support for the terrorist group that provoked Israel’s fatal attack. (The next day, the support was made explicit when an angry Al-Akhras family member told media: “Everyone says it’s the fault of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is our protector”.)

Many Canadians will, unfortunately, take their first reading of the whole Lebanese-Canadian community’s mood from these accounts of Hassan and his comrades’ bitter reactions. This is indeed an ironic coincidence, because the great majority of Lebanese-Canadians don’t share Hassan and Hanan Al-Akhras’ views. One swallow doesn’t make a spring, and 1,000 disaffected demonstrators from a community of 250,000 is hardly a critical mass.

Three quarters of Canadians of Lebanese descent are Christians. They strongly support the Harper government’s Middle East policy, and in particular appreciate Stockwell Day’s championing of human rights in Lebanon. Virtually all of them loathe Hezbollah — indeed, they loathe all terrorist groups — and approved Hezbollah being so classified by the Canadian government. The remaining Shiite Lebanese-Canadians are on the whole liberal-minded and, if not so vocally anti-Hezbollah as the Christians, quite cognizant of Hezbollah’s deviant presence in Lebanon.

4 Comments »

I wonder where Ms. Kay gets her statistics from about how much Lebanese Christians or Muslims’ loathe or supoort Hezbollah? Did she interview all 500,000 Lebanese Canadians to get to these results? Or does she just make up these numbers to back her silly article? Or is she simply struggling to demonstrate furthermore how ignorant she is about what’s happening in the Middle East??!!

In addition to disrespecting the memory of innocent members of the El-Akhras family, she’s adding to the pain and sorrow of the surviving member. Ms. Kay, maybe you should keep in mind that Israel is the side who massacred them by bombing them. Israel’s actions just made Hezbollah more popular and loved than ever. I will never spend a penny to buy a copy of the National Post for spreading the ignorance!

Comment by Leila — September 19th, 2006 @ 3:06 AM

I was in the village when the house oft the family where bombed..it was terrible and it is unresponsible…….

Comment by Sara — April 19th, 2007 @ 8:41 AM

Excellent copy, it is a crime for a goverment to be control by a corp media group.

Comment by Dave — February 17th, 2008 @ 5:23 AM

Much love to the El Akhras family, from Kitchener, Ontario.

This story of mis-information reflects a great sickness.

God willing, we shall come to respect each other through more transparent mediums of “story telling.”

Sincerest blessings

Comment by James D. Lauckner — August 19th, 2009 @ 12:20 AM

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