Why is he still here?
National Post
Saturday, January 18, 2003
Raymond Baaklini, the Lebanese ambassador to Canada, would like us all to know that he is sorry. But for what, exactly?
Last weekend, he was so remorseful about his baseless accusation, in an interview with an Arab-language newspaper, of a Zionist conspiracy to control the Canadian media, that he helpfully repeated the slur to a National Post reporter. After being told that his comments were "unacceptable and without foundation" by a senior official at Foreign Affairs, he repeated them yet again to Arabic newspapers, adding that Canadian officials were not concerned about his behaviour. He even claimed to be the victim of newspapers "under the control of Zionist groups," together with supposedly fanatical Christian immigrants from Lebanon with nothing better to do than tarnish his reputation.
On Thursday, having been reprimanded by Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham, Mr. Baaklini finally seemed to realize that an apology was in order, if only to rescue his diplomatic career. But while his subsequent letter to Mr. Graham apologized specifically for alleging that Canadian police "always suspect every man with a beard and every woman with a veil," and stated his regret for the "offence" and "controversy" that his other comments had caused, he never actually retracted any of his anti-Semitic rant.
That "apology," however, was inexplicably good enough for Mr. Graham. "I am confident that the ambassador fully understands our position," he said Thursday, adding that he considers the matter closed. In a sense, Mr. Graham is probably right: Mr. Baaklini is undoubtedly now aware that it is not a good idea to parade his bigotry in public. But that does not excuse his anti-Semitism, nor does it make him a suitable diplomatic representative to our country.
In the immediate wake of Mr. Baaklini's initial comments, Mr. Graham responded by saying that Canada "will not tolerate anti-Semitism." But rather than make good on those words, he has let the ambassador off with a slap on the wrist. Last Tuesday, we suggested that Mr. Baaklini should either be recalled by the Lebanese government or have his diplomatic status revoked by our own Foreign Affairs department. Nothing in his forced and contrived "apology" has convinced us otherwise. Copyright 2003 National Post


Graham too soft on Lebanese envoy: Alliance
Called a 'non-response'
Stewart Bell -National Post
Saturday, January 18, 2003
The Official Opposition said yesterday it was not satisfied with the Lebanese ambassador's "non-apology" for his remarks about Jewish influence in Canada and urged Ottawa to push for his removal.
The Canadian Alliance faulted Bill Graham, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for not taking a stronger stand against Raymond Baaklini, who made derogatory remarks about Canada to the Arabic press.
"It's hard to tell what's worse: the Lebanese ambassador's non-apology or Foreign Affairs Minister Graham's non-response," said Stockwell Day, the Alliance party's foreign affairs critic.
"The government wants to continue dialogue with this conspiracy theorist.
"Graham must awaken from his wonderland of appeasement and ask that Raymond Baaklini be replaced."
Mr. Baaklini was summoned by Mr. Graham on Thursday after a translation of an interview he gave to an Arabic-language Montreal newspaper appeared in the National Post.
In the interview and in subsequent comments to the media, the ambassador alleged that Canada had outlawed the terrorist group Hezbollah because of a "Jewish or Zionist" party that he claimed controls "90% of the Canadian media."
He also alleged Canadian police "always suspect every man with a beard and every woman with a veil" and added Canadians travelling in Lebanon and the Arab world should no longer wear T-shirts bearing Canada logos.
"That means to be hated," he explained.
After his meeting with Mr. Graham, the ambassador issued a statement saying he regretted his comments had "caused offence and that they created a controversy."
But he did not apologize or retract his statements -- with the exception of his allegation about police conduct.
Mr. Graham said he was confident the ambassador now understood that Canada considered his language unacceptable and said he considered the matter closed.
Mr. Day disagreed.
"Graham's obsession with 'soft power' diplomacy is responsible for his softheaded treatment of this anti-Canadian diplomat. Soft power wins, Canadian values lose." sbell@nationalpost.com Copyright 2003 National Post