Standing up for Canada? The Harper government's
refusal to demand an end to the bombings of Lebanon
By David Orchard
For 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
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 homes.
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 stop."
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
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
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 continue.
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 Israel routinely crosses borders, captures
and assassinates Palestinians, including elected
leaders; that it 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
email@example.com, tel 306-652-7095