Masse: Reassess ban on Hezbollah
The Windsor Star
Tue 22 Aug 2006
Byline: Trevor Wilhelm
Windsor West MP Brian Masse believes Canada should consider dropping Hezbollah from its list of banned terrorist organizations, and compared the group’s political wing to the Bloc Quebecois.
"Canadians in Quebec have elected those members," Masse said Monday. "I don’t like it. They’re dedicated to a separate state in Canada. But would we then extract them from the Canadian government?
"That’s what someone outside looking in could say. Why don’t you eliminate them? We have to respect the democratic process. Whether we like it or not, they’re democratically elected."
Etobicoke Liberal Borys Wrzesnewskyj and New Democrat Peggy Nash from Toronto, two MPs on a fact-finding mission in Lebanon, were reported to have said over the weekend that Canada should drop Hezbollah from its list of terrorist organizations to aid the peace cause.
Wrzesnewskyj said Monday he never made such a comment.
He said he favours changing Canada’s laws that forbid any contact with known terrorist organizations. He said the law undermines efforts to seek lasting peace between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas after a brutal 33-day war.
But Hezbollah’s terrorist status should not change, he told The Canadian Press in an interview from Lebanon.
There is now a ceasefire, but fighting escalated in recent months after Hezbollah members from Lebanon kidnapped Israeli soldiers.
Masse said the decision to remove Hezbollah from the terrorism list shouldn’t be made until the MPs in Lebanon file a full report, but it’s something to consider.
"The discussion is circling around the democratically elected part of Hezbollah," he said.
"It is part of the government. These individuals could be beneficial to the stability of the entire region. We have to recognize that the Lebanese people elected Hezbollah members who believe in democratic process for change. We should examine the fact we have people in the parliamentary process that could be part of the long-term peace process for the region."
Masse, who pointed out that Ronald Reagan once named Nelson Mandela a terrorist, said outlawing Hezbollah members as terrorists and barring them from the peace process leaves them only one option.
"The only option for these individuals would be armed resistance," he said. "It’s dangerous."
Michael Bell, the former Canadian ambassador to Israel, Egypt and Jordan, said the decision isn’t easy.
He said Hezbollah has significant popular support because it has a social welfare system that maintains hospitals and schools and helps the impoverished.
"Their impact in this sense is important to the lives of their sympathizers," said Bell.
UNLIKE OTHER GROUPS
Unlike other groups defining themselves as guerrillas, insurgents or resistance organizations, he said, it also has two Lebanese cabinet ministers.
But that brings up the "more problematic" aspect to Hezbollah, said Bell.
"They call themselves a resistance movement."
Bell said Hezbollah was born out of Israel’s two-decade occupation of Lebanon. The Israeli occupation ended in 2000, he said, but Hezbollah tries to keep the conflict alive.
"They still maintained an attitude of belligerence."
Bell said he doesn’t condone all of Israel’s actions, but added Hezbollah’s kidnapping of Israeli soldiers is the most recent example of that belligerence.
"Hezbollah operates in Lebanon as a state within a state," he said. "It is a competing armed force in Lebanon that only answers to itself."