TORONTO (Nov. 24)
Canadian Jewish officials are increasingly frustrated that the Canadian government refuses to ban all of Hezbollah’s activities in Canada.
The frustration comes amid allegations that a Hezbollah operative from Canada helped plan the Nov. 15 terror attack in Hebron that killed 12 Israelis.
The Canadian government’s inaction allows the Lebanese fundamentalist group’s social services wing to raise funds in Canada for use in the Middle East.
After Hezbollah appeared on a U.N. list of terrorist groups last year, Canada banned the organization’s militant wing from raising funds here and declared that all of its assets in Canada would be frozen.
But the radical Shi’ite group, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis, was not included on a list of seven terrorist organizations released by the solicitor-general’s office last July.
Critics argue that the government has hampered the group’s financial powers but not its ability to propagandize, acquire military equipment or recruit and train new agents in Canada.
Grilled repeatedly in Parliament in recent weeks, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has defended the right of Hezbollah’s social or humanitarian wing to raise funds in Canada.
Graham has argued that an outright ban on all Hezbollah activities would hinder the work of many innocent doctors, lawyers and social workers in Lebanon and hamper Canada’s role as a neutral broker in the international political arena.
“We’re not going to take that step” of an outright ban “as it would interfere with our ability to conduct peace negotiations in the Middle East,” Graham said in the House of Commons.
Stockwell Day, a leader of the opposition Alliance Party, has lambasted the government for treating Hezbollah “as if it were an international aid agency” and for perpetuating the myth that the organization “kills thousands of people with its left hand and makes peace with its right.”
Day also pointed out that Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah has declared that all wings of the organization are united in a single purpose — the destruction of Israel.
The Canadian Jewish Congress has written the government several times, urging the government to abandon the “specious distinction” it makes between the military and social-political wings of Hezbollah.
To the consternation of many Canadians, Prime Minister Jean Chretien came face to face with Nasrallah at a summit of leaders of French-speaking countries in Beirut last month. An accredited delegate at the summit, Nasrallah was sitting in the front row as Chretien addressed the gathering. The Canadian prime minister also came under fire for shrugging off the summit’s many anti-Israel diatribes.
Jewish communal officials are particularly disconcerted to learn that Ayub Fawzi, a senior Hezbollah militant from Canada who has been in Israeli custody since his arrest in Hebron last June, has been accused of being the strategic “mastermind” of the terrorist attack in Hebron on Nov. 15.
Also known as Fauzi Abu Abbas, the 38-year-old man is a Canadian citizen of Lebanese origin, who allegedly flew from Canada to Athens on a genuine Canadian passport, then flew from Athens to Tel Aviv on a forged U.S. passport. Although the Israeli security service Shin Bet had been following him, he disappeared in the West Bank soon after his arrival.
Ayub’s mission to Israel represents “a new stage in the efforts which Hezbollah has invested in perpetrating terror attacks inside Israel,” according to a statement released by the office of the Israeli Prime Minister.
“We’ll be watching the Ayub case very closely,” said Keith Landy, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. “At the moment, all we have are allegations” that he planned the Hebron attack.
Compounding the Jewish community’s anger is a series of investigative reports in the Toronto-based National Post that document the extent to which Hezbollah operatives used Canada as a base for raising funds and purchasing military supplies throughout the 1990s.
As recently as two years ago, agents in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto had been moving hundreds of thousands of dollars through various Canadian banks and had purchased a range of military supplies that were then shipped to Lebanon, the newspaper reported.
The letters of complaint from the Canadian Jewish Congress have had little apparent effect. “We’ve hit a brick wall with this government,” Landy said.
“They’ve taken the position that until we can show that funds are flowing from the so-called social-humanitarian wing of Hezbollah to the militant wing, they are not pressed to do anything.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Rodney Moore, described Hezbollah as “an important political party in Lebanon. It has 12” members of Parliament and “runs clinics and schools and provides support for farmers in Lebanon. Our intention has been not to label MPs, teachers and doctors as terrorists.
“I can add that we disagree in important ways with Hezbollah, but dialogue to us is more important than labeling.”
Like Canada — and unlike the United States — Britain permits Hezbollah’s social wing to raise funds.
But observers point out that Britain has outlawed all activities of the military wing, not just curtailed its fund-raising abilities as Canada has done.