Lebanese-Canadians to mark one-year anniversary of Israeli bombing raid

July 16th, 2007 | Posted in Hezbollah, Resistance, Solidarity, War and Terror

    Canadian Press: Dene Moore. Wednesday, July 11, 2007


MONTREAL (CP): The Hezbollah flag could well figure prominently when Quebec’s Lebanese community marks this weekend’s one-year anniversary of the Israeli bombing of southern Lebanon.

In a city that lost an entire family to Israeli bombs, supporters of the outlawed terrorist group have increasingly flouted the ban and become more vocal in their support.

“Who is Hezbollah? What have they done? What is their history and where do they come from? That’s what we should be talking about,” said Hussein El-Akhras, whose nephew died in the bombings. The man’s wife and children also died.

He said those who talk about Hezbollah are immediately attacked as anti-Semitic.

After the deaths last July of Ali Al-Akhrass, 36, his wife Amira, 23 and their four children, grieving relatives lauded the outlawed group.

“Hezbollah is our protector,” Maysoun Al-Akhrass screamed at an emotional news conference. “It’s they who try to protect my family.”
Last year’s conflict began with the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. One has never returned.

The yellow banner of Hezbollah, a hand stretching up from the name of Allah to grasp a gun, surfaced at many rallies to protest the war. Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and other Quebec politicians came under fire for taking part in the marches alongside the controversial symbol.

In the ensuing months, supporters lobbied for Hezbollah to be removed from Canada’s list of terrorist groups.

“In Lebanon and throughout the Middle East, Hezbollah is viewed as a legitimate political actor by both those who adhere and diverge from the organization’s political program,” says the website for Tadamon Montreal, leaders of a campaign to remove the group from the terror list.

The group says the terrorist designation “undermines the political aspirations and autonomy of people throughout the entire region, from Lebanon, occupied Afghanistan, Iraq to Palestine.”

But Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, said he can’t believe there could be a surge in support for Hezbollah because of the war.

“Hezbollah certainly personifies terrorism,” said Dimant, who has no concerns the federal government would consider removing Hezbollah from the list.

Hezbollah, or the “Party of God,” was formed after the 1982 occupation of Lebanon by Israel.

The United States blames the group and its founders for a 1983 barracks bombing in Beirut that killed more than 300 American and French troops. The group is the prime U.S. suspect in approximately 200 attacks blamed for at least 800 deaths.

Throughout the Middle East, the group is largely viewed as a legitimate resistance movement.

Hezbollah, which has 14 of the 128 seats in the Lebanese parliament and runs hospitals, schools and other social programs throughout Lebanon, has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.

Five years ago, the Canadian government conceded to U.S. requests to follow suit, joining the U.S. and Israel with an outright ban. Several other countries have designated the military arm a terrorist organization.

Hicham Hallal of the group El-Hidaya, which is helping organize Saturday’s commemoration in Montreal, did not want to focus on Hezbollah as the one-year anniversary approached.

“The official position of the government is that this is part of the terrorist list and that people would treat it like that,” he said.

But he said some people are questioning the decision to ban “a party that is legitimate in its country and democractially represented in the government.”

The war is still having a huge impact on Lebanese and many Canadians, he said.

There are an estimated 250,000 Lebanese-Canadians, most of them concentrated in Montreal and Toronto. Canadian officials evacuated approximately 14,000 Canadians from Lebanon during the 33-day conflict.

“The memories and the emotional impact is still there because it’s still vivid in their memories,” Hallal said.

People watched their country and homes destroyed, he said.

“Many of them had experiences trying to escape that war,” Hallal said. “They were under siege for some time and they were in transition from there to here.

“That’s all something that they still live and still have in their minds.”

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