Friday, July 28, 2006

Where Art Thou, O Canadian Lebanese, Arabs?

Toronto's Center for Performing Arts turned into a pro-Israel chorus Wednesday night, where an estimated 8,000 Israel supporters gathered for a "Stand with Israel" event and "emergency" fund-raiser. In about fifteen minutes, approximately $6 million had been raised, with a stated objective of $20 million. How, I wonder, can a state with the world's fourth largest military, which receives on average $5 billion from the United States annually, need "emergency" funds? If one thing, the emergency is taking place across the border, in Lebanon, where more than 750,000 civilians have been displaced, and where the roads and bridges on which humanitarian aid can be brought to succor the population have been bombed. The event in Toronto was marked by the presence of retired major-general Lewis Mackenzie, an individual who not only came short of fulfilling his mandate in the Balkans but who has banked on his former position to sell books and make numerous appearances at conferences and in the media.

Which raises the question—why aren't we seeing similar rallies within the Lebanese and Arab communities in Canada? Is it that the sense of siege since the events of September 11, 2001 has so beaten them into fear and submission that they are now reluctant to come to the assistance of their brethren? Is it fear that demonstrations and fund-raising events would risk generating undue attention by Canada's spy agency, which is incapable of thinking of fundraising for Lebanon in terms other than support for Hezbollah, for terrorism? Sadly, as has been the case with much of the Muslim world with respect to the military occupation of Palestine, and as the great Edward Said deplored for most of his life, Arabs are not only disunited but they are also failing to make their voices heard. The great danger in this is that by failing to speak truth to power, to demonstrate, to appear in the media and take a concrete, principled stand, to resist through lawful action, Arabs and Muslims are leaving the door open to the only means of resistance that still seems possible—violence by the few, whose self-defeating actions unfortunately leave a negative mark on the whole Arab and Muslim enterprise. Without the corrective of diplomatic debate and a strong intellectual representation to counter the Israeli lobby, no solution will ever come to the Middle East, except cycles of violence and more Lebanons.

It is therefore grand time for the Lebanese—and there are many in Canada—Arabs and other Canadians who believe in justice to organize an event of their own. Use the idle Olympic Stadium in Montreal, or gather in front of the Parliament building in Ottawa. The pro-Israel camp wants to raise $20 million? Double that. Support a peaceful and just solution to the quagmire, stay together, use the force multiplier of numbers, and no one will be able to touch you. Not CSIS, not Harper, no one. And invite a great general of your own. Invite Romeo Dallaire, someone who for his great courage and selflessness during the Rwandan genocide has a better claim on moral rectitude. And if Lou, as he said he would, wants to participate in the "Stand with Lebanon" event, do welcome him.

The world simply cannot afford for the disgustingly one-sided war that is currently going on in much of the Middle East to continue. We cannot afford silence anymore.

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