TORONTO (Dec. 16)
Canada has responded to an intense barrage of criticism by adding all of Hezbollah’s operations to its list of terror organizations.
Hezbollah’s military wing was banned by Canada in late 2001, but for many months Ottawa had resisted pressure to outlaw the charitable wing.
After months of insisting that the charitable wing of Hezbollah does not deserve the terrorist label because it provides vital social services in Lebanon, the government last week abandoned the distinction.
Canada imposed the ban last week after Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, urged Palestinians to carry out more suicide attacks against Israel.
Keith Landy, national president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, described Nasrallah’s speech as the “final straw that the government couldn’t ignore.”
As a result of the ban, any assets that the organization may have in Canada can be seized.
Banks have been notified to freeze any accounts linked to the organization, which may have been operating under a variety of names.
The government’s list of banned terrorist groups, created under legislation passed after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, now includes 16 organizations.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad were added three weeks ago. In July, the solicitor general outlawed Al-Qaida and six Al-Qaida affiliates.
Anyone belonging to or helping the groups faces a possible 10-year prison sentence.
Hezbollah is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis. The United States has branded it a terrorist organization, and the United Nations has placed it on its list of terrorist entities.
Numerous major newspapers across Canada ran editorials calling on the government to have run editorials outlawing Hezbollah.
Jewish groups have likewise pushed for the ban.
B’nai Brith Canada filed a lawsuit, now withdrawn, to force the government to institute the ban.
Along with the lawsuit, B’nai Brith convened at least two news conferences in Ottawa and sponsored several ads in national newspapers.
The organization’s executive vice president, Frank Dimant, has called on solicitor generals across the country to launch investigations into the activities of operatives linked to Hezbollah.
“We don’t want people who have been allied with Hezbollah to shift their allegiances to some other entity which has not been banned yet,” he said.
Both B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress agree that the government must now turn its sights on two Palestinian groups, the Tanzim militias and the Al-Aksa Brigade, which is the terrorist wing of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement.
Officials in the Solicitor General’s Office describe the list of terrorist groups as a “work in progress” and say their investigations are continuing.