Politicians and members of the Jewish community showed their support for Israel’s military campaign in Lebanon during a rally at a Halifax synagogue on Thursday.
"I support Israel’s right to defend itself against unprovoked attacks," Liberal MP Scott Brison told the crowd of more than 200 people, including 120 Jewish teens waving Israeli flags.
But with that right comes the responsibility to limit civilian losses, Mr. Brison said.
"I stand for the peace-loving people of Israel and the peace-loving people of Lebanon, and I stand against Hezbollah and its supporters," he said.
The Hezbollah militant group has been firing rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon for months and kidnapped two Israeli soldiers during a July 12 attack on an army outpost.
Israel responded immediately with air strikes on Hezbollah targets.
Much of Lebanon’s infrastructure has been destroyed in nine days of bombing. More than 300 Lebanese and Israeli citizens have been killed.
"Hezbollah started this conflict," Mr. Brison, MP for Kings-Hants and a candidate for the federal Liberal leadership, told Thursday’s rally at Shaar Shalom Synagogue. "Hezbollah can end it by returning the soldiers and by disarming."
Mr. Brison met with Wadih Fares, the honorary Lebanese consul in Halifax, earlier in the day.
"I expressed my sympathies and condolences for the Lebanese and Lebanese-Canadian families that have been torn apart by Hezbollah-instigated warfare," Mr. Brison said. "I also expressed to him that I want to make sure Canada has an important role in the reconstruction of infrastructure in Lebanon."
Mark Rosen, president of the Atlantic Jewish Council, said the Israeli military is doing everything it can to avoid killing civilians.
"Hezbollah and Hamas want to maximize civilian casualties on both sides, specifically by the use of weaponry intended to create terror and maximum injury and then hiding from retaliation among the civilian population.
"Let us be clear. No country should be expected to remain passive when its soldiers and civilians are attacked and killed, when others are kidnapped and when bombs rain down on its population."
Mr. Rosen said Prime Minister Stephen Harper should be thanked for supporting Israel’s military response in Lebanon.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay, in a message sent to the rally, said Hezbollah is to blame for the crisis in Lebanon and must take the first step toward peace. He urged Israel to exercise the utmost restraint in its offensive.
Lebanese-Canadian Joanne David said she observed the rally with three friends "out of curiosity."
"It’s nice to hear the Jewish community mention the people of Lebanon and that they hope there is peace for the people of Lebanon like there is for the people of Israel," Ms. David said afterward.
"However, our prime minister and other heads of government are making a big mistake by not demanding a complete ceasefire. It is a disaster to watch a country being burned, from north to south. (The Israelis) are hitting everywhere and people are dying."
Ms. David said a demonstration she was organizing for Sunday has been postponed "because people are just too emotional right now."
Instead, prayers for peace will be offered during services Sunday morning at the Lebanese community’s two churches in Halifax –St. Antonios Orthodox and Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic.
Liberal MP Geoff Regan, in a telephone interview, said the Harper government should adopt Canada’s traditional role of neutrality in the Middle East.
"I would call for an immediate ceasefire on all sides and the return of the Israeli soldiers," the Halifax West MP said.
"It’s very difficult to see how we can have an orderly evacuation of the remaining Canadians and foreign nationals (from Lebanon) or humanitarian aid for the civilians in that country or rebuilding of that country while the hostilities continue."