Standing up for Canada?
By David Orchard
Clearing House" -- -- For over two weeks, tiny Lebanon has been
pounded by bombs, shells and high tech missiles from land, sea and
air. Its coast is blockaded, its airport smashed. Sixty plus bridges
have been destroyed; roads, schools, ports, churches, mosques, grain
depots, radio, television and telephone towers, ambulances, power
stations, fuel depots, a hospital, milk factory, pharmaceutical
plant and entire residential city blocks pulverized. Frantic
relatives with bare hands try to free those buried alive.
Officially 384 Lebanese civilians are dead, one third of them
children, thousands wounded, some 800,000 rendered homeless. The
numbers are rising daily.
A million tourists, expats and “snowbirds,” including roughly 50,000
Canadians, were trapped in the country. Twenty fleeing civilians
were burned alive by Israeli missiles after being ordered from their
The Israeli government stated that the bombardment of its neighbour
is a reaction to the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah
guerrillas operating from Lebanon, and that its operations will
continue indefinitely. Seventeen Israeli civilians have been killed
by shells fired from Lebanon after Israel began bombing.
The Lebanese prime minister begs for international intervention and
a cessation of hostilities saying his country has suffered
“unimaginable losses” and is being “ripped to shreds.” Jan Egeland,
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, called the bombing “horrific” and
“a violation of humanitarian law.” The secretary general of the
United Nations, Kofi Annan, demands an immediate ceasefire: “The
excessive use of force is to be condemned. Israel’s disproportionate
use of force and collective punishment of the Lebanese people must
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, issued a
warning concerning war crimes. “International law demands
accountability. The scale of killings in the region, and their
predictability, could engage the personal criminal responsibility of
those involved, particularly those in a position of command and
Canada is a charter member of the United Nations with a long, active
history in international affairs, peacekeeping and mediation. The
current Canadian government was recently elected promising to “stand
up for Canada.”
With 50,000 Canadians in harm’s way what has been our government’s
response? Canada’s new UN ambassador, John McNee, told the Security
Council that Israel’s action in Lebanon “was an exercise in its
right to self-defence.” The minister of foreign affairs, Peter
MacKay, refused point blank to endorse the secretary general’s call
for a ceasefire. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated: “Israel’s
response, under the circumstances, has been measured.” He announced
that it was “too early” to call for a ceasefire. These words, in
essence, signalled a green light from Canada for the bombing to
Eight visiting Canadians, including four children, were killed by
Israeli bombs. The Canadian government made no protest. Is this Mr.
Harper’s idea of “standing up for Canada?”
Anyone can understand the difficulty of putting together a mass
evacuation under bombardment; what cannot be understood, or
forgiven, is the refusal of our government to demand an end to the
hostilities creating the chaos and suffering.
The Harper government’s abject response to the murder of Canadians
and its refusal to demand an end to the bombing constitutes an
abandonment of its duty to protect Canadians and to defend the rule
of law on behalf of all humanity.
If one ignores that 400,000 Palestinians driven from their land have
existed for decades in refugee camps in Lebanon; that the Israeli
military routinely crosses borders, captures and assassinates
Palestinians, including elected leaders; that Israel has over 9,000
in its jails, including some Lebanese; and if one accepts Mr.
Harper’s thesis that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, then a
comparison could be made with Britain responding to the capture of
two of its soldiers by the IRA in Northern Ireland by reducing
Dublin’s airport and the rest of Ireland’s infrastructure to rubble.
Who could defend that as a “measured” response?
Gideon Levy, writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, said, “In
Gaza, a soldier is abducted from the army of a state that frequently
abducts civilians from their homes and locks them up for years
without a trial -- but only we’re allowed to do that. And only we’re
allowed to bomb civilian population centres.”
Our government in Ottawa has, whether for reasons of religion or
ideology, sided uncritically with a foreign government, in this case
Israel’s, at the expense of our own national interests as Canadians
and law abiding members of the world community.
David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada -- Four
Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism. He farms in
Borden, SK and ran twice for the leadership of the former
Progressive Conservative Party of Canada. He can be reached at
davidorchard @ sasktel.net