Balfour, is not a spy, but a devout born-again Christian
By: David Dolan
Some American politicians and pundits predicted that a New Middle East would quickly emerge from the ruins of Saddam Husseins satanic regime in Iraq. I was among many regional observers who warned before the short springtime war that such expectations were greatly exaggerated, if not entirely na´ve. The ever intensifying terror campaign against remaining coalition forces should be enough to end any lingering hopes that this medieval region has been massively transformed by the long-overdue toppling of the venial dictator.
Another glaring indication that I still live in the familiar, brutish Middle East is of a more personal nature. A longtime friend, Bruce Balfour, is about to go on trial in Beirut on charges that he has been acting as a spy for Israel. And what is the main evidence to prove this serious charge? The 52 year old Canadian from British Columbiaarrested at Beirut airport on July 10thhad the audacity to visit the Jewish state, and then travel to Lebanon! If such is a crime, then I too have committed it many times over.
I became acquainted with the husky evangelical Christian with a broad smile in 1982. He had come up to Israels northern Galilee panhandle to work with an international Christian relief agency called Lebanon Aid. It was loosely connected to the Voice of Hope gospel radio station based just across the border in southern Lebanon, where I served as News Director for two years. Christian Aid volunteers were busy lending material comfort to the people of southern Lebanon, who had suffered severely during the Lebanese civil war and the PLO occupation of their area in the 1970s and early 80s. Others had just lost their homes or jobs during the 1982 Israeli military offensive to push Yasser Arafats fighters out of the beleaguered Land of the Cedars.
I first met Bruce Balfour as he was returning from an overnight pig shoot in the Galilee area. Being a fellow Westerner, (raised about 80 miles south of the British Columbia border with Idaho) I immediately took to the avid hunter. I was amused that he was seemingly confirming his non-Jewish origins by targeting the un-kosher wild animals which freely roam the hills of northern Israel. It soon became apparent to me that Bruce was a committed Christian who loved adventure, the roots of his frequent and prolonged trips to the turbulent Middle East.
My most vivid memory of our first years as friends is actually recorded in my new book, Holy War for the Promised Land. I joined his Lebanon Aid convoy one day in the summer of 1982, along with Voice of Hope founder George Otis Sr. and other expatriate and Lebanese staff members. Our mission was to deliver food and other supplies to Palestinians living in the Ein Hilweh refugee camp in the biblical port city of Sidon. The aid packages contained many items, including Arabic bibles and, for the kids, American-made Frisbees. Bruce and I were given the pleasurable task of demonstrating the newfangled toys to the children, who watched with enthusiasm as we tossed a Frisbee back and forth. However, we later learned that the plastic saucers were being used as plates by many war-weary camp residents.
Although I introduced the unnamed Bruce in my book as a Voice of Hope coworker, the truth is that he was never directly employed by the radio station. However, any association with the now-defunct Lebanese evangelical stationconsidered traitorous by the former and current governments in Beirut since it was used as a mouthpiece by the commander of the Israel-backed South Lebanese Army militiais bound to be a black mark against the Canadian as he goes on trial on August 20th in Beirut.
The truth is that Bruce Balfour is no spy for Israel or anyone else. He is simply a devout born-again Christian who cares deeply for the people and land of Lebanon, as he does for Israel and Canada. That is why he helped establish a humanitarian ministry called Cedars of Lebanon a few years ago. As he explained to me during one visit to the region, his main goal is to help the Syrian-occupied land re-establish part of its ancient glory by drumming up support for replanting the depleted Cedar forests in the north of the country, while also establishing new groves in war-torn southern Lebanon.
It is the latter part of his peaceful vision which is being touted by Lebanese prosecutors as the main evidence that the Canadian is under the illicit payroll of Israel. Why travel to southern Lebanon (as he has done on earlier visits) if not to check out Lebanese and Hizbullah militia positions for the Zionist enemy, states the charge sheet against him. As if the Israelis cant see what is happening on the ground from their frequent air reconnaissance missions, made necessary by the Lebanese governments failure to take control of the tense border area from the Iranian-backed rogue fighters.
My counter question is this: Why would Bruce phone me up for a Jerusalem bed to stay in if he was a paid secret agent for Israel? Why would he ask me to recommend a free place in Cyprus (where he has embarked on past journeys into Lebanon) if he was clandestinely raking in money from the Mossad, instead of heading up a small charitable organization based in Canada?
The Canadian government must help defend its brawny, big-hearted citizen with more vigor than demonstrated up until today. Officials in Ottawa must not be put off by ridiculous charges that Bruce Balfour is an agent of Israel. He must not be allowed to become the latest victim in the ongoing struggle by many dictatorial regimes in the Old Middle East to remain the isolated backwaters of modern civilization.