INFLAMMATORY COMMENTS MADE BY LEBANON'S AMBASSADOR TO CANADA IN AN INTERVIEW PUBLISHED ON 31/12/03 AS ADDRESSES TODAY IN THE CANADIAN AND WORLD MEDIA
REPORTS COMPILED BY LCCC MEDIA COMMITTEE
LCCC or CLHRF websites to read the releases issued by the CLHRF, and WLO (Arabic) and the
Ambassador's interview text in Arabic
Envoy Must Explain 'Zionist' Remark-Canada
Fri Jan 10, 5:08 PM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada said on Friday it would summon Lebanon's ambassador and ask him to explain remarks he reportedly made saying Ottawa's decision to outlaw the Lebanese-based Hizbollah group had been made under pressure from "Zionists" who controlled most of the Canadian media. Foreign Minister Bill Graham told reporters he was troubled by what Ambassador Raymond Baaklini was alleged to have said in an interview with a Lebanese newspaper late last month. "I've called him in to the (ministry), both to tell him of my dissatisfaction -- if in fact the press reports are correct as to what he said -- but also to give him an opportunity to (explain) exactly what he did say," Graham said. Last month Ottawa banned the political wing of Hizbollah after the leader of the guerrilla group urged Palestinians to carry out more suicide attacks. Canada had already banned the military wing in 2001. December's decision came after months of pressure from opposition parliamentarians, pro-Israel groups and newspapers run by CanWest Global Communications Corp., Canada's largest newspaper chain. CanWest chairman Israel "Izzy" Asper is a strong supporter of Israel and regularly complains about what he sees as anti-Israeli bias in the domestic and international media. According to the National Post, a CanWest paper, Baaklini said Ottawa had outlawed Hizbollah because of pressure from a "Zionist party" that he said "controls 90 percent of the Canadian media". A spokeswoman at the Lebanese embassy in Ottawa said Baaklini was not available for comment. Graham, saying he was seeking an independent translation of the article, dismissed the idea that Ottawa had caved in. "The suggestion that the decision about Hizbollah was made because of pressure by any group within Canada is wrong," he told reporters on a conference call. Hizbollah accused Canada last month of bowing to U.S. and Israeli pressure and warned the move would incur the wrath of Muslims and Arabs.
envoy makes no apologies
Ottawa angered by remarks on Zionism
Sheldon Alberts, Deputy Ottawa Bureau Chief -National Post
Saturday, January 11, 2003
OTTAWA - Lebanon's ambassador yesterday did not retract controversial comments about the power of the "Zionist movement" in Canada, despite being summoned to a meeting with Foreign Affairs officials who told him they were "unacceptable and without foundation." Bill Graham, the Foreign Affairs Minister, ordered Raymond Baaklini to appear before Canadian officials to explain remarks he made to an Arabic-language newspaper saying Canada was pressured by a "Zionist party" and Jewish-controlled media to designate Hezbollah as an outlawed terrorist organization. Amid calls for Ottawa to expel Mr. Baaklini, the ambassador met yesterday afternoon with John McNee, the assistant deputy minister for Africa and the Middle East. "Canada's concerns about the ambassador's interview were clearly expressed to, and understood by, the ambassador," said Rodney Moore, a department spokesman.
"The assistant deputy minister reminded the ambassador that his remarks were unacceptable and without foundation." But Mr. Baaklini "has not retracted," Mr. Moore said. Ottawa will register further complaints with the Lebanese government in Beirut, but there are no immediate plans to revoke his diplomatic credentials. Mr. Baaklini could not be reached for comment. The diplomatic dispute erupted after publication of an interview Mr. Baaklini gave to the Montreal-based Arabic-language newspaper Sada al Machric, in which he said the "Zionist movement" in Canada had the "number one role" in forcing Ottawa to outlaw Hezbollah. The Dec. 31 edition of the newspaper asked the ambassador for his response to the "unfair" policy on Hezbollah."The most stubborn party benefiting from this subject is the Zionist party that exists in Canada," he was quoted as saying.
"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, it had the number one role and America comes second." Mr. Graham indicated he may also personally speak with Mr. Baaklini to "set him straight" about the behaviour expected of foreign diplomats posted to Canada. "I will make it clear to the ambassador, and anyone else, that in Canada, that we will not tolerate that type of activity in this country," Mr. Graham said in a telephone interview from Toronto. "We are a country that is based on openness, tolerance, respect for one another, and we will continue to do that, and we certainly will not tolerate anti-Semitism in this country." Jason Kenney, the Canadian Alliance foreign affairs critic, called for an immediate retraction and apology from Mr. Baaklini. "They read like run-of-the-mill, anti-Israeli propaganda that almost always has some sort of Jewish conspiracy theory at the heart of it," Mr. Kenney said. "It is unfortunately a commonplace belief in parts of the Arab world that there is an international Jewish cabal which is responsible for American and Western support for Israel, and this is all tied up with very nasty, hoary old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."
Israel Asper, the chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp., which operates the Global Television Network and is Canada's largest daily newspaper publisher, called Mr. Baaklini's remarks "sickening." Mr. Asper said Ottawa should revoke his diplomatic credentials. "Who is this 'Zionist party' that, according to Baaklini, owns 90% of the Canadian mass media and takes instructions from abroad? It is certainly not CanWest," Mr. Asper said in a statement. "It would be news to all the other media organizations in Canada, including our competitors in the private and public sector, that this so-called 'Zionist party' controls them also." Mr. Asper, whose company owns the National Post, said the Lebanese ambassador "has defamed both Canada and the Canadian media but is not accountable by virtue of his diplomatic immunity and it is only appropriate that he be stripped of same and asked to leave the country." Ottawa is also alarmed over Mr. Baaklini's statement that Canadians travelling in the Middle East should avoid wearing Canada T-shirts that advertise their nationality, because of the government's decision to ban Hezbollah. "I am afraid the Canadian would have the urgency to wear a non-Canadian T-shirt in Lebanon and the Arabic world," the ambassador told the newspaper.
Mr. Graham said the statement would "certainly be factored into our thinking" in determining whether Ottawa should issue a travel advisory warning Canadians that it may be unsafe to visit Lebanon. Canada froze the assets of Hezbollah's military wing following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in Washington and New York. But the federal government argued for months that the social and political wings of the group, which is based in Lebanon, were legitimate organizations that provided humanitarian assistance to Lebanon's poor. Hezbollah has elected several MPs to Lebanon's Parliament. Ottawa reversed its position last month and outlawed the entire Hezbollah apparatus under Canada's Criminal Code. Mr. Graham said the Lebanese ambassador was "completely wrong" to suggest Ottawa succumbed to political pressure from any group, although Jewish groups and the Canadian Alliance mounted a campaign over several months to have Hezbollah banned. "It was a decision made based upon security for Canadians," Mr. Graham said. Mr. Baaklini was also "wrong to suggest that press in Canada is controlled by any one group," Mr. Graham said. "It is not true. We have an extremely diverse press in this country." Mr. Baaklini has been the focus of diplomatic controversy before. He assumed his current position in 2000 after being transferred from his post in France under a cloud for undiplomatic comments on Franco-Lebanese relations.
The Lebanese government said at the time that his removal as ambassador to France after less than a year in Paris was to allow for a strengthening of relations with France. French authorities took three months to agree on his nomination as Lebanon's ambassador, usually a purely routine process, because they were unhappy about remarks Mr. Baaklini made before his accreditation on "the poor state of Franco-Lebanese relations."firstname.lastname@example.orgę Copyright 2003 National Post
Lebanese envoy's comments
By SIMON TUCK
The Globe and Mail: Saturday, January 11, 2003 Page A5 OTTAWA --
Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham admonished the Lebanese ambassador to Canada yesterday after the diplomat was quoted as saying that Ottawa banned the militant group Hezbollah because of pressure from pro-Israeli news organizations. Ambassador Raymond Baaklini was quoted as saying that 90 per cent of Canada's media is controlled by Zionists, although an Arab-Canadian group charged yesterday that a translation of the original interview with Mr. Baaklini was intentionally distorted. Mr. Baaklini was also reported to have said that overseas tourists may now be in some danger if they wear T-shirts with Maple Leaves and that Canadian police are suspicious of men with beards and women with veils. The comments were translated from an interview published last month in an Arabic newspaper.
Mr. Graham called Mr. Baaklini in for a meeting yesterday with the Department of Foreign Affairs' assistant deputy minister for the Middle East where, according to a department spokesman, the diplomat was told his remarks were "unacceptable and without foundation." Mr. Graham said Hezbollah was banned because of its actions, not pressure from pro-Israel groups or newspapers within Canada. He also said Mr. Baaklini needed greater explanation about Canada's multicultural democracy and emphasis on tolerance. "We're not a country where we single out groups and make comments about them. We're a country where we have respect for one another."
Department spokesman Rodney Moore said, "This was a serious meeting. We're concerned about anti-Semitism." He said the controversial remarks will be further addressed by Canadian officials in Lebanon, who will discuss the matter with the Lebanese government. Late yesterday, Canadian media baron Israel Asper issued a press release calling for Canada to expel Mr. Baaklini and declare him persona non grata. Ottawa should send a clear message to Lebanon that the ambassador's comments "were offensive, untruthful and otherwise unacceptable," Mr. Asper said in the release. Mr. Asper is chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp., whose holdings include the Global television network and 17 daily newspapers across Canada. The company's roster of dailies includes the National Post, which published an article yesterday based on a translated version of Mr. Baaklini's comments. Mr. Baaklini was not available for comment yesterday but a spokesman for the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations said the newspaper's translation wasn't accurate. Mazen Chouaib, the council's executive director, said the ambassador's comments were intentionally manipulated by the newspaper's translator to fit the Asper political agenda. "Mr. Asper should not be dictating Canadian policy." Mr. Graham said he was basing his remarks only on newspaper reports of Mr. Baaklini's comments. The government also had its own translation of the interview, Mr. Moore said later.
asks for explanation; Asper calls for expulsion of Lebanese ambassador
OTTAWA (CP) -- The Lebanese ambassador came under more criticism Friday when Foreign Minister Bill Graham asked him to explain his comments about Ottawa's decision to ban Hezbollah, and a prominent media mogul called for his expulsion from Canada. Izzy Asper, chairman of CanWest Global Communications Corp., issued a statement calling on Canada to declare Raymond Baaklini "persona non grata and thereby expel the Lebanese diplomat from Canada." Asper said the government must send the message that Baaklini's comments "were offensive, untruthful and otherwise unacceptable and that such behaviour was inconsistent with his duties and responsibilities as a diplomat accredited to Canada." Graham said earlier Friday that he's troubled by comments the Lebanese ambassador made about Ottawa's decision to ban Hezbollah in Canada and he wants an explanation. Baaklini had told an Arab-language newspaper that Canada outlawed the terrorist group last month under pressure from a "Zionist party" he said controls 90 per cent of the Canadian media.
Baaklini said he's been told "Canadian police always suspect every man with a beard and every woman with a veil." He suggested that Canadians travelling in the Arab world shouldn't wear Canada T-shirts. "There are aspects to his comments that I found extremely troubling," Graham told CBC Newsworld on Friday. "I've asked him to explain exactly what he did say." Graham said the decision to outlaw Hezbollah was made solely to protect the security of Canadians. "His suggestion that it was made under pressure is in my view unfounded and wrong." Any such suggestion in today's climate of concern over anti-Semitism must be condemned, the minister added.
"We are a country where we have respect for one another, tolerance . . . and it's very important that all ambassadors recognize that that's the nature of our country." The Department of Foreign Affairs began looking into the matter after Lebanese-Canadian and Canadian Jewish organizations protested the remarks and asked Graham to reprimand the ambassador. Baaklini later confirmed that he had made the comments, defending them as aimed at a specific audience. Asper accused Baaklini of "engaging in the same old lies and propaganda that we have learned to expect from government-controlled media in many Arabic countries, all intended to incite hatred of Jews everywhere." "Baaklini lives in Canada and knows better. He thought his repugnant comments would not be heard in this country. He has no business being here."
CanWest, Canada's largest publisher of daily newspapers owns, operates or holds substantial interests in newspapers, television, radio, out-of-home advertising and Internet portals in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Canada froze the assets of Hezbollah's military wing last year, but did not ban the group outright until December, following protests led by the Canadian Alliance and Canadian Jewish groups. The move angered Lebanon, where Hezbollah is viewed as an Islamic resistance movement against Israel and has elected members of parliament.
LEBANON 10452 KM2
Canadian for Lebanon 10452 km2 statement responding to Lebanon's Ambassador to Canada, His excellency Raymond beyaklani in regard to an interview with Muhammad Jimaa from Sada Al Mashrik at 12/31/2000.
We at Canadian for Lebanon will like to express our deeply regret to what His Excellency had said in his interview, We will like to put a note on some issues and have clearance on others.
1st: On the interview, we were wondering if his excellency was speaking on behalf of a free Lebanese Nation called Lebanon or a known terrorist group called Hizb Allah founded and supported by Syria and Iran to form an Islamic nation in south Lebanon with an international scope for terror.
We at Canadian for Lebanon will like to inform his Excellency that the majority of the Canadian-Lebanese are supportive Canadas decision to band Groups, and Governments that support, harbor and finance terrorism.
2nd: His Excellency said there is no organization called Hazb Allah in Canada, no so called sleeper terror belong to this organization; and if that is true what makes the Lebanese Government so paranoid about Canadas band to this group, and why His Excellency is degrading Canadian-Lebanese for standing and supporting Canadas decision to band this group. We would like to stress that any act or violence against Canadians in Lebanon will only strength our will to fight terrorism.
Mr. Ambassador, we are Canadians, descendents of a people that built Byblos, Tripoli, Tyre and Sidon and now we are here to help and build this nation that welcomed us and offered us Freedom and Protection, when our Government in Lebanon the one that you are representing failed to do, so the real Citizens of that Great nation. Your Excellency we are proud of our origin upon which God laid his gracious hand and blessed our cedars and raised his messengers.
And finally we demand a formal apology to our Host nation Canada. And we ask you to work on the UN. 520 RESOLUTION so the Lebanese aboard will have a chance to live in free Lebanon.
MR. YAHYA MAHMOUD
Information at CANADIAN FOR LEBANON 10452 KM2
CLHRF responds to inflammatory comments made by
Lebanon ambassador to Canada
LCCC: The Canadian Lebanese Human rights Federation CLHRF, responded today in a press release that was distributed on the Media and posted on its website (http://www.clhrf.com) to the last hostile and inflammatory comments that were made by Mr. Remon Behakleni, Lebanon's ambassador to Canada. The comments that were published in Canada by a Lebanese Arabic newspaper on 31/12.02 lacked all the traditional Lebanese diplomatic courtesy and accused harshly the Canadian government to have acted under pressure from the USA and the "Zionist movements" in regards to its recent decision that listed Hizbollah on the terrorism list.
The ambassador also stated that 90% of the Canadian media is controlled by "Zionist movements". At the same time he criticized in a humiliating manner the Canadian-Lebanese organizations that supported the Canadian government and alleged that according to his personal "follow up" resources they have enjoy no representation among the Canadian -Lebanese community. The release addressed all the ambassador's statements and responded to them. It draw his attention to the horrible infringements on the Canadian law and the code of diplomacy that he has committed. The CLHRF questioned with suspicion the ambassador's tactics and means that he used to watch and observe groups and members of the Canadian-Lebanese community to which he referred as the "Christian Rightist Currents".
The CLHRF advised the ambassador to apologize for both for the Canadian government and to the Canadian Lebanese community for his inflammatory and hostile statements and to stop using such unacceptable language in canada.
Meanwhile another condemning harsh response came from the World Lebanese Organization - Canadian Chapter (WLO). It focused on the horrible atrocities committed by Syria, Hizbollah and the Lebanese government against the Lebanese people It accused the ambassador of being either ignorant or has adopting a double standard stance in regards to the nature of the American-Lebanese relations. The WLO considered the ambassador's statements as inflammatory, inappropriate, hostile, irresponsible and instigative.
N.B: to read the ambassador's statments and the two responsed check the LCCC or the CLHRF websites on
The following interview with Lebanon's ambassador to Canada, Mr. Raymond Baaklini, was published in "SADA AL MASHRIQ" Arabic newspaper on 31/12/02:
Lebanon's ambassador to
Ottawa, Raymond Baaklini:
We want Canada to revoke its decision against Lebanon.
The efforts of some Lebanese have aimed to put all of Lebanon, and not only Hizbollah, on the terrorism list.
Ottawa-from Mohammed Jouma
After the unfair decision recently taken by the Canadian government under pressure from the US government, the Zionist Lobby and the Alliance Party, in cooperation with a Lebanese party working closely with the Zionist Lobby to attack Lebanon's dignity, independence and resistance, it was necessary to meet with His Excellency, the Ambassador of Lebanon to Canada, Mr. Raymond Baaklini. The Ambassador is working hard these days to deal with the aftermath of this decision and try to contain it. We sought his opinion on the background of the decision and the role of the community in confronting it.
His Excellency Ambassador Raymond Baaklini was born in 1943 in Bzebdeen, in the district of Baabda. He has been with Lebanon's foreign diplomatic corps since 1972, holding several posts and heading six Lebanese diplomatic delegations, successively to Gabon, Stockholm, Libya, South Korea, France, and presently to Canada.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, in your opinion why has the Canadian government taken the decision to put Hizbollah on the terrorism list?
Answer: After two and a half years of observing developments in Canada, especially after the events of September 11, it appears that Canada was somewhat forced to align itself with the American position. Indirectly, and due to its important economic relations with the US, it had to work closely with America especially in security matters. And so I believe that American pressure was one of the most important reasons for taking such a decision. We know that America is the only country that places Hizbollah on its list of terrorist organizations. The most determined party that has benefited from this matter is the Zionist party in Canada which, as you know, controls 90% of Canadian media. It takes its instructions and support from many Zionist organizations located either in Canada or abroad. As such, the Zionist movement has actually the leading role, followed by the US in second, behind this matter.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, what efforts are being exerted by Lebanon's Foreign Ministry and the Lebanese Embassy in Canada to contain and kill this decision? In your opinion, will the recent request by the Lebanese government to remove Hizbollah from the terrorism list be successful?
Answer: We were surprised by the decision, and so were the members of the Canadian House and Senate. That is to say, the decision came as a surprise to everybody, and we were unable to take the necessary steps. However, we have initiated actions with two objectives in mind:
1- The decision should not be blindly applied to every bearded Lebanese with accusations of membership in Hizbollah, considering that there is no organization in Canada under the name of Hizbollah. Of course, there are Islamic and Christian organizations, and these are licensed to operate.
2- I received direct and clear instructions from the Lebanese government, and I made all the necessary contacts in this regard. It is obviously imperative that we immediately try to contain this decision if we cannot cancel it, because the present circumstances may be conducive to have it revoked, as they may equally permit the Zionist organizations to hold on to it. Therefore a great deal of effort is required for this matter.
Question: In your opinion, will this decision have an impact on the Lebanese-Canadian community and the Islamic organizations that provide assistance to the needy in Lebanon?
Answer: Quite frankly this is actually what I fear, and in fact this was the central issue in my initial discussions with the Canadian Foreign Ministry. As you know, the US gave the green light to its security apparatus and gave them a license to go after the innocent. So when a police officer detains an individual, suspect or non-suspect, there is no possibility of recourse to a judge to look into the matter. This has now become the situation in Canada as well, and this is what I brought up with Canadian officials as I said in the beginning of this conversation. As an ambassador, I can't accept that the opponent is also the referee, and that the police have the final decision (on the matter). What I really feared was voiced by many Lebanese groups who visited the Embassy. The Canadian police always seem to suspect every man with a beard and every woman with a veil. We categorically reject that and urge the community's organizations and lawyers to confront it.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, do you see that the Lebanese-Canadian community, with the cooperation of the other Arab and Islamic communities, will be able to do something to stand up to this decision and work on having it re-considered or contained?
Answer: If the community were well organized, it would have been able to stop the decision, even if it was alone and without the help of the other communities. However, given the present state of organization, all it can do is send a few letters to newspapers and some MPs. I certainly hope that our community would unite and work for its interests.
Question: We heard that there is a Lebanese party that has supported and participated in the adopting and shaping of this decision. Who are these people and what is Lebanon's official position concerning them?
Answer: For a while now, I have been receiving news and information about individuals affiliated with Christian rightist movements who work to put all of Lebanon, and not only Hizbollah, on the terrorism list. I have personally investigated this matter and found that these individuals are not effective, and members of these movements represent no one but themselves in this community.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, have you approached the other Arab or Islamic diplomaticdelegations in a bid to cooperate on common action and confront this decision?
Answer: Quite frankly, I am still hesitant. The Arab Ambassadors Council was supposed to meet last Tuesday, but the meeting was postponed till January because of the holidays. The reason for the hesitation is that Arab ambassadors and envoys of Islamic countries follow the policies of their countries. Due to the fact that these policies are not clear, we cannot take common action, although some of the ambassadors have expressed to me their personal opinions, and they sympathize with Hizbollah and consider it a resistance and not a terrorist movement.
Question: It is known that Canada was active in peacekeeping and conflict-resolution situations, and did not directly interfere in difficult cases. Do you see that this decision will affect Canada's reputation in the Middle East and the Arab and Islamic worlds?
Answer: Yes, this is what I said to my Canadian friends at all levels, citing as an example my own experience in South Korea. I noticed that most foreign young people there wore T-shirts with Canada's name on them. I asked one of them where he was from and from which Canadian city. He replied that he was American and not Canadian. I then asked him why did he have Canada's name on his T-shirt and his reply was so that people accept me and merchants deal with me, because they expel Americans from their streets. And this is how Canada is seen in the Arab world, a symbol of civilization, mutual understanding, and exchange. A meeting ground for culture, education, and politics in the Arab world. Canada's name was a symbol, and I am afraid that Canadians in Lebanon and the Arab world would have to start wearing T-shirts with other countries' names on them.
Question: In your opinion, is the Canadian decision going to encourage some European countries to make the same decision?
Answer: We should here go back to the reasons I mentioned as being behind the decision, and these are American and Zionist pressures. I don't think Europe will be affected by this decision because Europe is closer to the region and deeply understands its interests with the Arab region and with all individuals and organizations in Arab society. That's why there is really no choice for Europe, especially that Europe has important interests there. European and Arab intellectuals always deal with each other on the basis of logic.
Questions: Finally, Your Excellency, do you have any additional comments for the community?
Answer: I wish for the community not to be seized by fear because it is innocent of any wrong. I emphasize that I have reached an agreement with the Canadian authorities that they will inform the community of any violation against any Lebanese, should he be accused of membership in Hizbollah. We have created a network of contacts and communications with the Canadian authorities, and I urge the community to stay in touch with the embassy without any fear. We continue to improve the mechanisms for reporting any violation or infringement by the Canadian police. We are following these matters very closely and I hope that the community's lawyers and all its institutions work with us to alleviate the suffering that any Lebanese might be exposed to. I ask everyone to unite and work together for the welfare of the Lebanese community.
Your Excellency, Mr.Ambassador, thank you. We hope to see our community strong and united for the interests of Lebanon and its peoples everywhere.
For those wishing to contact the Embassy, please call its telephone number at 613-236-5825
N.B: The above text is an unofficial
translation only, done by the LCCC media Committee staff to the best of their
understanding of the interview content. To read the original Arabic text,
Please visit the LCCC website on
\or the CLHRF website on
LCCC Media Chairman