Monday, May 21, 2007

Will Canada's Lebanese Community Please Stand Up?

Will Canada's Lebanese population protest this slaughter of civilians?

Let's all take a trip in time to last year.

On July 12, 2006 Israel dispatched combat forces into Lebanon to engage Hezbollah terrorists. Hezbollah had recently kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and had been spending weeks prior launching rocket attacks on Israeli civilian neighbourhoods.

During the early rounds of that conflict, Prime Minister Stephen Harper surmised that Israel's response was a "measured response".

Members of Canada's Lebanese community furiously protested Harper's comments, citing the deaths of civilians killed by Israeli attacks on Hezbollah positions, who were using Lebanese civilians as human shields.

Now, it's day two of a feirce battle surrounding the Nahr El-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The Lebanese military has opened fire on Fatah-Islam, an Isamic militant group suspected to have links to Al Qaida, with M-48 battle tanks, with the camp caught in the crossfire. There have been civilian deaths, although the precise number of them is as yet undetermined.

The battle is apparently the result of a gun battle in a neighbourhood in Tripoli, which followed a Saturday bank robbery.

Reports indicate that hundreds of Lebanese cheered and applauded as the tanks opened fire.

One wonders: will the Canadian Lebanese community stand up as they did last year, and protest their homeland's slaughter of civilians, or will they remain largely quiescent because Israel is nowhere to be found in this conflict?

The lack of protest raises an interesting question: were last year's protests about civilian deaths? Or were they simply about Israel?

This conflict actually seems to be a legacy of Lebanon's civil war, in which Syrian-backed Islamic militants waged war against the country's Christian population. Fatah-Islam is also believed to be linked to the Lebanese government's pro-Syrian opposition.

Yet the fact remains: the Lebanese military has clearly done absolutely nothing to avoid civilian casualties. They have recklessly opened fire on a refugee camp with tanks, when they could have avoided civilian deaths by entering the camp with infantry units instead.

At least jet bombers allow for a measure of precision -- even if this has so rarely been the case, particularly if targets are mis-identified. If Israel was guilty of a degree of recklessness -- and certainly, they were -- then Lebanon seems at least equally so.

Will Canada's Lebanese community please stand up?

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