Lebanon's regime Ambassador, Remon Baaklini in
the Canadian Press for 13.14 and 15/1/03
Reports compilled by LCCC Media Committee
Expel Lebanese ambassador, Alliance demands
Mike Trickey The Ottawa Citizen
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
The Canadian Alliance says Lebanon's ambassador to Canada should be
expelled for his continued refusal to retract or apologize for anti-Semitic comments he
made to an Arabic-language newspaper that were published New Year's Eve. "The
government must send a clear message that the ambassador's comments were
unacceptable," says Jason Kenney, an Alliance foreign affairs critics. "Since
the ambassador refuses to apologize, he should be sent home. Any refusal on the part of
this government to take action could imply tacit agreement with the offensive
Raymond Baaklini, who has not returned phone calls this week, told the Montreal-based newspaper Sada al Machric that Canada had added the Lebanese Shia Muslim organization Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organization because of pressure from a "Zionist party" that controls Canada's media and receives assistance from abroad. Asked by the National Post to clarify his remarks, Mr. Baaklini said he might have used different words if speaking to an English-language paper, but then repeated the main thrust of his comments.
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham said Canada added Hezbollah to its list of banned terrorist groups because of security concerns and called Mr. Baaklini's comments unacceptable. The ambassador was summoned to Foreign Affairs headquarters where he was given a a lecture about his remarks by a senior Canadian official. The Canadian government has formally informed the Lebanese government about its concern over the comments.
Bhupinder Liddar, editor of Diplomat and International magazine, says he is surprised that a diplomat of Mr. Baaklini's experience would have made those sorts of comments and even more surprised he would compound the mistake by saying he would not have said the same things to an English-language paper. "If you say one thing to one constituency and another thing to another constituency, or one thing in one language and something else in another, it breeds problems. It puts him in a difficult position where he looks to be double-faced,'' said Mr. Liddar.
Whether Canada takes the apparently unprecedented peacetime step of asking Lebanon to withdraw its ambassador will depend on how Canada interprets the criticism. "He has stepped over the diplomatic line by questioning the government, but it will be up to Foreign Affairs to determine whether he's questioned the government's motives for action or whether he's insulted Canada's general policy," Mr. Liddar said. However, Mr. Liddar said Canada would have to weigh imposing the ultimate punishment against Lebanon with other regional concerns.
"There's a whole gamut of things to consider, from the Francophonie to relations with Lebanon and relations generally in the region," he said. "You put relations on ice for a while if you do something like (expelling him)." Mr. Kenney said the government has to consider all of those factors, but must also weigh Mr. Baaklini's continued lack of contrition.
"I don't think this is about Canada's relations with Lebanon. It's about their irresponsible ambassador,'' he said. ''I think sending a message to the appropriate channels that we would prefer he not be the representative of Lebanon to Canada says nothing negative about our relations with Lebanon. It says something negative about this particular ambassador.© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
Canada tells Lebanon envoy's remarks out of line
Ambassador under fire for saying a 'Zionist party' controls nearly all of Canada's media
Stewart Bell and Sheldon Alberts
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Canadian diplomats met with Lebanese officials yesterday to protest controversial remarks by Beirut's ambassador to Ottawa, who alleged in an Arabic-language newspaper that a "Zionist party" controls "90% of the Canadian media." A senior-level delegation told the government of Lebanon it was concerned about comments by Raymond Baaklini, Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, that have prompted calls for his removal."Our embassy in Beirut has expressed our concerns about the interview to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lebanon," said Rodney Moore, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa. "The ministry expressed its understanding of Canadian concerns and indicated it would examine the matter carefully. Canadian-Lebanese relations have always been close and friendly and we're working to ensure that any and all misunderstandings are addressed."
Mr. Baaklini told a Canadian-Lebanese newspaper on Dec. 31 that Canada had outlawed the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah because of a "Zionist party" that he said is aided from abroad and controls Canada's media. He also said that as a result of Canada's Hezbollah policy, Canadians should no longer wear Maple Leaf t-shirts when they travel to Lebanon and the Arab world, and that he understood that Canadian police treated all bearded men and all veiled women as suspects. After the undiplomatic remarks were reported in the National Post last Friday, Bill Graham, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, condemned them and summoned Mr. Baaklini to a meeting where he was told they were "unacceptable and without foundation."
The ambassador declined to retract his statement. Foreign Affairs has done its own translation of the Arabic-language article and concluded the Post's account of the remarks was accurate, Mr. Moore said. Mr. Baaklini was summoned on Friday to a meeting with John McNee, the assistant deputy minister of Foreign Affairs for Africa and the Middle East. The ambassador may have to face another grilling from Mr. Graham before his future as part of Ottawa's diplomatic corps is decided. "We still don't know if the Minister will get involved further. He is not back in Ottawa. He is going to want to speak to [Foreign Affairs officials]. We are still looking at the situation," said one source.
Canadian Jewish community leaders have written to Mr. Graham to protest the ambassador's comments, which they called typical of the Jewish conspiracy propaganda that circulates in the Arab world. Lebanese-Canadians have also complained. Israel Asper, chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp., which owns the Post, Canada's largest newspaper chain and the Global Television network, called the remarks "sickening" and said Ottawa should revoke his diplomatic credentials. Mr. Graham said Canada put Hezbollah on its list of banned terrorist groups last month because of security concerns, not due to lobbying by any particular group.
Contacted last week by the Post, Mr. Baaklini confirmed he had made the comments in Arabic but said he might have chosen his words differently had he been addressing an English-speaking readership. Asked whether he had said that Zionists were behind Canada's Hezbollah policy, Mr. Baaklini told the Post: "That's right. I wanted to say exactly that 90% of the mass media in Canada is controlled by Jews or Zionists and those Jews or Zionists are also supported by other organizations in the [United] States."email@example.com © Copyright 2003 National Post
But Baaklini should go
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
If there is one thing to be said for Raymond Baaklini, the Lebanese ambassador to Canada, it is that he does not mince words. Unlike some Arab leaders, who spew anti-Semitic hate at home but retreat to multicultural bromides in the West, Mr. Baaklini is apparently a straight-shooting bigot.
Of course, it would be rather difficult for the ambassador to explain away his recent comments to an Arab-language newspaper. Asked to comment on Canada's sensible decision to outlaw Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist group, Mr. Baaklini said: "The most stubborn party benefiting from this subject is the Zionist party" -- i.e., the Jews. "As you know this party controls 90% of the Canadian media. It takes instructions and help from many Zionist organizations either in Canada or abroad. Therefore if we don't say the Zionist movement had the number two role [in prompting the government to outlaw Hezbollah], it had the number one role and America comes second."
Mr. Baaklini then went on to smear all Canadians by claiming that our police are suspicious of men with beards and women with veils. He also appeared to imply that Canadian tourists in the Arab world could be in danger if they wore clothing identifying their country of origin. How "diplomatic."
To its credit, the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation -- which opposes the current Lebanese government -- has joined Canadian Jewish groups in calling on Lebanon to recall its ambassador. But other Arab-Canadian representatives have attempted to blame the translator rather than the ambassador, in some cases perpetuating the same conspiracy theories espoused by Mr. Baaklini. Most notably, Mazen Chouaib, executive director of the National Council on Canadian-Arab Relations, claimed "the translation was made to create a problem" by a National Post translator with a "political agenda," and warned that I. H. Asper -- the Post's proprietor, who is evidently part of the vast Zionist conspiracy -- "should not be dictating Canadian policy."
We have all heard these accusations of Zionist media control before, of course. Anyone who has listened to late night AM radio, or studied white supremacist literature, knows that such claims as Mr. Chouaib's are a staple of paranoid constituencies everywhere. But what makes them especially preposterous in this context is the fact that Mr. Baaklini himself verified the accuracy of the translated text, and stood by his earlier comments, in a subsequent National Post interview. "I wanted to say exactly that 90% of the mass media in Canada is controlled by Jews or Zionists," he reiterated this week, "and those Jews or Zionists are also supported by other organizations in the [United] States."
Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, responded to Mr. Baaklini's statement by saying that Canada "will not tolerate anti-Semitism." But presumably, the policy applies to anti-Semites too. And since Mr. Baaklini has not apologized for his hateful comments, but has proudly reiterated them instead, he should be expelled. Sadly, there are plenty of countries where Mr. Baaklini's views on Jews are acceptable fare for public consumption. Mr. Graham should make it clear to Lebanon that Canada isn't one of them. © Copyright 2003 National Post
Baaklini says what the Arab world thinks
George Jonas -National Post
Monday, January 13, 2003
I think we should be thankful for straightforward souls like Lebanese ambassador Raymond Baaklini, who last week unburdened himself of the view that Canada has been pressured by "the Zionist party" and the Jewish-controlled media to designate Hezbollah as an outlawed terrorist organization.
We should be thankful because, unlike more clever or sophisticated folk, people of Mr. Baaklini's ilk don't beat around the bush. What's in their hearts is on their tongues. While artful anti-Semites, like giant octopuses, shroud their ideas in great, murky blobs of ink, uncomplicated Neanderthals like Mr. Baaklini come right out with them. We don't have to surmise what they or their audiences really think; they tell us.
Mind you, the Lebanese ambassador is not without subtlety. Before he stopped talking to the press, Mr. Baaklini explained to the National Post that the remarks he made in an interview with the newspaper Sada al Machric were meant for an Arabic audience, and he might have phrased them differently if he were addressing English readers.
Then -- presumably under the impression that the Post wasn't part of the English-speaking press -- Mr. Baaklini enlarged on the views contained in his remarks to his Arabic audience. "I wanted to say exactly," he explained to the Post's Stewart Bell, "that 90% of the mass media in Canada is controlled by Jews or Zionists, and those Jews and Zionist, they are also supported by other organizations in the States."
What I find so gratifying about the Lebanese ambassador's remarks is that they confirm at least two things that commentators dubbed "right-wing" in the media, myself included, have tried to point out for years. One is that the contemporary Arab world, along with much of the Western left that supports it, is permeated by the crudest, most primitive kind of anti-Semitism; the kind one would have assumed didn't exist outside the yellowing pages of the late Nazi propaganda sheet Der Stürmer. Another is that Arab leaders often say one thing in Arabic and another in English -- unless, of course, much as they might want to, they just cannot tell a lie, like George Washington or Mr. Baaklini.
Another part of the ambassador's observations also contains a grain of truth. When it came to Arab or Muslim "militants," Canada's simian government could see, hear, or speak no evil for the longest time. Jean Chrétien and his Cabinet had to be pressured into designating Hezbollah a terrorist organization -- not by a "Zionist party" or a Jewish-controlled media, but by the weight of facts and a groundswell of public opinion. Considering that in November, 2002, Canada's Foreign Minister Bill Graham was still busy explaining why the "social and religious" wing of a terrorist organization like Hezbollah is different from its military wing, Mr. Baaklini is hardly wrong when he speaks of pressure. He's only wrong when he attributes the pressure to a Jewish conspiracy instead of a belated triumph of common sense.
Now that Mr. Baaklini's opinion has hit the fan of publicity, Mr. Graham is outraged. He has ordered Lebanon's envoy to explain himself. A number of non-governmental organizations, from the Canadian Jewish Congress to the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation, have also been adamant that the Minister should inform Mr. Baaklini that such comments are "completely unacceptable" in Canada.
So far Mr. Baaklini has been sticking to his guns. He has neither retracted his comments nor apologized for them. I hope he continues to stand firm -- or pigheaded, which may be a better word in his case -- because apologies and retractions only muddy the water. The problem with the Lebanese ambassador isn't that he speaks his mind, but that his mind is what it is. Apologies and retractions can only cover this up; they cannot alter it.
Mr. Baaklini's mind isn't unique and it isn't an aberration. He shares his mind with many others in the Arab and Muslim world. He shares it with the state-controlled TV media in Egypt whose executives scheduled a 30-part series called Horseman Without a Horse, based on a notorious 19th-century Russian forgery entitled Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to play during the month of Ramadan. He shares it with Muslim educators from Syria to Pakistan who teach their pupils that Jews are "apes and pigs." He shares it with the Saudi government-controlled daily Al Watan that wrote in a two-part article on Dec. 8-9, 2001: "The Jewish organizations are implementing their strategic hellish plan to take over the world."
The simple truth is that in the Arab/Muslim world Mr. Baaklini's views are the norm. This doesn't necessarily mean that his views are adopted by every Arab or Muslim, or even by a majority of Arabs and Muslims. It only means his views have enough weight and momentum to carry the day. The Middle East has become the repository of the vilest anti-Semitic propaganda ever since Adolf bin Schickelgruber published Mein Jihad. It may comfort us to pretend that it isn't so, but if we're as honest as Mr. Baaklini, we'll face it and move on from there.© Copyright 2003 National Post