August 21, 2006
Fact-finding mission to Lebanon
AITAROUN, LEBANON—The Canadian government must begin direct talks with militant groups such as Hezbollah to effectively bring a peaceful end to conflicts like the one that has ravaged Lebanon this summer, Toronto Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj says.
Standing at the spot where an Israeli air strike killed several members of a Montreal family last month, Wrzesnewskyj said Israel's summer offensive against Lebanon was nothing less than "state terrorism."
"Over 1,200 dead and counting. Over 40,000 apartments and houses flattened. A country's infrastructure dismembered. You look around here," said Wrzesnewskyj. "I believe what's happened is absolutely criminal."
It was one of the strongest statements a Liberal MP has made against Israel since July 12, when it launched air, land and sea attacks after guerrillas from the militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper initially called the ensuing Israeli onslaught a "measured response" to the raid, but as the civilian death toll mounted, he later toned down his comments saying such judgments had become more difficult as the war escalated.
But for the three Canadian opposition MPs who yesterday toured the wasteland of south Lebanon on a fact-finding mission, Israel's attacks here have been anything but measured.
"Those who were injured and killed on the Israeli side of the border feel equally devastated, but the extent of the damage is far greater here. And to say that Israel's response was a measured response is just so far out of whack from reality," said NDP MP Peggy Nash.
Wrzesnewskyj said even if Canada had attempted to play a role, the country's anti-terrorism legislation prevents it from having any contact with groups listed as terrorist organizations under the criminal code.
"We can't shackle ourselves by saying, `We're not going to talk,'" he said. "We must talk."
All three MPs here speculated that Conservatives' unwillingness to send a representative is reflective of their support for Israel's government.
The MPs travelled through areas where Israeli forces have destroyed homes, businesses and hundreds of civilian lives and ended in this border village where diggers have spent days scraping through debris in a delicate effort to remove the bodies of the al-Akhras family.
The Montreal couple, their four young children and other family members, were caught in their ancestral village when the fighting broke out. The home they had sheltered in took a direct hit on July 16.
Wrzesnewskyj called for a full international investigation of attacks on civilians.
"This sort of state impunity has to end," he said. "It's almost having to save a people from themselves. What do you think (Israel's) breeding here? Extremism."
I think a less nonsensical defintion seems more appropriate. The way that I would define it would be as an act of violence against a civilian target for the purpose of creating fear or intimidation. Clearly the targets were civilian. Clearly the desired effect was to create fear and intimidation.
It is certainly criminal, and the thought of anyone ever being punished for it is just so absurd it might be funny if it weren't to tragic.
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