Feature:Canadian Jews target Hezbollah

By JOSEPH CHRYSDALE  |  Dec. 6, 2002 at 5:04 PM
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TORONTO, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Under the spotlight of a well-publicized lawsuit, Canadian leaders are accelerating their examination into whether fundraising by the Hezbollah should be allowed to continue or be banned.

The issue came to a head last week when Canada placed six groups, including the Palestinian-based Hamas on its list of banned terrorist organizations, but excluded Hezbollah.

That prompted a lawsuit against the government by the Jewish organization B'nai Brith, claiming that parliament was acting in contravention of its own anti-terrorism act.

Adding to the acrimony between Canadian Arabs and Jews, a registered Jewish charity, Magen David Alom, also came under government scrutiny. The group's charter states its purpose as raising funds to supply medical equipment and ambulances to Israel.

Although the organization has not been banned, Jewish groups worldwide posted protests on Web sites and with an e-mail campaign.

The Lebanese-based Hezbollah has two primary arms, the first being a humanitarian operation that funds and runs schools and hospitals in southern Lebanon, and the second being both political and military in nature, including the "External Security Organization," known for terrorist acts.

The United States has banned all fundraising by groups associated with Hezbollah, while Canada and Britain have only banned the military wing. The United Nations includes all of Hezbollah on its list of 200 known terrorist operations.

Until now, the Canadian government's position has been that apart from its humanitarian work, Hezbollah is a valid political party in Lebanon, with 12 elected members in its National Assembly. But Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B'nai Brith told the Globe and Mail that position is absurd.

"The Nazis were also elected and had social services and a youth wing," he said.

Along with the lawsuit, B'nai Brith has launched an expensive newspaper advertising campaign to step up pressure on the government. The federal cabinet's only Jewish member, Revenue Minister Elinor Caplan also said this week she intends to get the issue to the cabinet as quickly as possible.

Solicitor General Wayne Easter said in parliament Wednesday that Hezbollah and other Middle Eastern organizations are under scrutiny by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

"We will come forward with other listings in the future," Easter said.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Arab community is planning protests over the weekend at various newspaper offices that ran the B'nai Brith ads.

Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations told UPI the anti-Hezbollah campaign is but a small fragment of the stresses on Canadian Arabs.

"We (Arabs) have been under siege since September 11th," Chouaib said. "Some members of the media have staged attacks on our community which could be interpreted as incitement to hate."

Asked if any formal charities or organizations exist in Canada specifically for funding Hezbollah, Chouaib was emphatic.

"You will not find in Canada any organization that raises funds for Hezbollah. What we have here is a family that is supporting an orphan... you find somebody sending $20 to support a refugee in Lebanon," he said. "You will never find the same scale of fundraising that you see in the Canadian Jewish community."

Under Canadian law, the government can sieze all assets of a group deemed to be linked to terrorism, and financial supporters can face lengthy jail terms. At present, Canada has 13 groups on its list of banned organizations.

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