The truth about Hezbollah
National Post - Canada
  
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(Commentaries Section)

Saturday, December 14, 2002

The CBC seems to be doing its utmost to whitewash one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world. On Dec. 10, the federal government correctly (if belatedly) put Hezbollah on its list of banned terror groups. That night, CBC television ran a story implying Ottawa made this decision on the basis of possibly fabricated quotes attributed to Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader. Five days earlier, the National Post had excerpted a recent speech by Sheik Nasrallah in which he urged that suicide bombings "should be exported outside Palestine. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don't be shy." The same article noted a second speech in which the sheik declared: "We will act everywhere around the world" if the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem suffers damage.

The CBC correspondent, Neil Macdonald, claimed he could not find independent verification of these quotes, and concluded his report with a remark that implied Hezbollah might actually be a "national liberation movement" unfairly smeared by "supporters" of the Jewish state. Ottawa's decision could be a mistake, he suggested, because "to a great many people in this part of the world, to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization is to choose sides in the defining conflict of the Middle East, an intensely political decision for any government." In a Friday piece, Antonia Zerbisias, The Toronto Star's media columnist, chortled with glee about how Mr. Macdonald had conclusively proved "there was no evidence [Sheik Nasrallah] had ever incited suicide bombers to go global."

The first thing to point out is that Mr. Macdonald's suggestion that the quotes were fabricated is baseless. Sheik Nasrallah's comments were obtained by a group of Arabic language experts who monitor Lebanese TV and radio broadcasts. The texts were sent on to Professor Walid Phares at Florida Atlantic University, and were subsequently reported in The Washington Times (as referenced by our story). The first quote was reported, according to the analysts, in a Hezbollah news bulletin dated Nov. 23, 2002. The second quote was reported in As-Safir, a Lebanese newspaper, on Nov. 30.

We are not ourselves on Hezbollah's mailing list -- nor are we Arabic media specialists. So, strictly for the sake of argument, let us assume that reports of Sheik Nasrallah's recent call for more international terrorism really were wrong. Would this make any difference as to Hezbollah's proper classification? Not a whit. As Robert Fulford writes on the facing page, Sheik Nasrallah's Iranian-funded, Syrian-backed organization has an extensive terrorist history in several countries. Moreover, the organization is perfectly up-front about its goal: the slaughter of Jews, the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamist dictatorship on its ashes.

The CBC's suggestion that there is a debate among informed observers as to Hezbollah's status applies only to Arabists who choose to willfully ignore the group's blood-soaked dossier. Hezbollah was responsible for, among other outrages, the suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon in 1983 (241 murdered), the 1984 destruction of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, the kidnapping of westerners (including the CIA's Beirut bureau chief, who was personally tortured to death by Hezbollah's "security director"), and the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847. The group is also believed responsible for the bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish cultural centre (85 dead), and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (19 dead, 370 wounded).

And yet the CBC tells us that the decision to apply the terrorist label to such a group is "intensely political."

Lately, senior Hezbollah operatives were involved in the Palestinian Karine-A arms smuggling plot -- which would have brought enough C-4 explosives to Gaza to equip more than 100 suicide bombers. In April, 2002, alone, the United Nations catalogued the firing of 152 anti-tank missiles, 1,246 mortar shells, 11 surface-to-air missiles and hundreds of rounds of small-arms fire into Israeli territory by Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. The CBC's suggestion that this might plausibly be chalked up to "national liberation" is ignorant: The UN has confirmed that Israel withdrew from every square inch of Lebanese territory two years ago.

Indeed, the real threat to Lebanon's sovereignty comes from Syria, which has treated its small neighbour like a colony since 1975. There are more than 30,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon. Yet this doesn't bother Sheik Nasrallah. In May, 2001, he described Lebanon's "alliance" with Syria as "crucial" and praised the Syrian army for enduring "many burdens and dangers" by occupying Lebanon. Someone should ask Mr. Macdonald -- who has been accused by Jewish groups of anti-Israel bias in his reporting -- if he thinks this sounds like the leader of a true "national liberation movement," or a murderous quisling serving the interests of Tehran and Damascus.

As we have noted in this space before, the editors and correspondents at the CBC seem to view anti-Israeli terrorism as something less serious -- and more excusable -- than "real" terrorism. The decision to add Hezbollah to Ottawa's list of banned organizations was hardly controversial. Yet our national broadcaster manufactured controversy by suggesting the decision was unfounded, and due only to a partisan campaign mounted by the pro-Israel lobby. The gesture will only deepen the suspicion among ordinary viewers that our national broadcaster is not an objective source of Middle Eastern news.

Copyright 2002 National Post