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Alberta Diary

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David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. His 1995 book, A Poke in the Public Eye, explores the relationships among Canadian journalists, public relations people and politicians. He left journalism after the strike at the Calgary Herald in 1999 and 2000 to work for the trade union movement. Alberta Diary focuses on Alberta politics and social issues.

Galloway unedited: 'Special Tribunal for Lebanon' should have asked 'who benefited?'

| January 16, 2011
George Galloway, Nov. 25, 2010, in Edmonton, Alberta

We have been informed by the media that the "Special Tribunal for Lebanon" investigating the 2005 assassination of the Lebanese politician Rafik Hariri is expected to recommend indictments as early as tomorrow.

Much is made in the Canadian media of the fact that the tribunal, which by all accounts seems to have made up its mind long ago that the Lebanese political and paramilitary movement Hezbollah was responsible for the assassination, is a "UN-appointed" body, as if that guaranteed neutrality in the complicated and confusing Lebanese situation.

The thrust of the very limited Canadian news coverage on this subject seems to be designed to persuade uninformed and partially informed readers that Hezbollah was indeed responsible for the assassination, as is claimed regularly by Israeli and U.S. officials. For example, the November leak by tribunal insiders to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. was meant to explicitly reinforce this perception.

The majority of Canadians who do read this coverage, one suspects, skim over it and assume it is of little relevance to Canada, perhaps feeling a vague sense of pride at the fact the tribunal's chief prosecutor is a Canadian.

Given what we are able to read, while the names on the indictments are to be kept a secret, it is reasonable to assume that if indictments proceed tomorrow as reported they will be directed at Hezbollah.

Moreover, it is not that hard based on a reading of the limited facts known about this situation to conclude that a key goal of the tribunal -- whose efforts are being encouraged by the Americans and Israelis with significant Canadian input -- is to assist in the neutralizing of Hezbollah's very effective fighting wing.

Indeed, according to such authorities on the region as Robert Fisk of the Independent newspaper, Hezbollah for all intents and purposes defeated the technologically superior and better armed Israeli armed forces during their 2006 invasion of Lebanon. Writing in Asia Times in October 2006, Alastair Crooke and Mark Perry argued, contrary to the story "retailed by White House and Israeli officials" of an Israeli military success, that "Hezbollah scored a decisive and complete victory in its war with Israel."

In addition, as the Globe and Mail reported Thursday, the United States wants the tribunal to carry on and bring down indictments because "the tribunal is a source of pressure the Americans can apply on Syria and Iran."

These reports bring to mind a warning on the same topic delivered in Edmonton in November 2010 by George Galloway, the former British politician and vocal opponent of economic sanctions and military attacks against the Palestinian people.

Readers will recall the tireless efforts of Canada's Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, especially Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, to prevent Galloway, who at the time was a British Member of the Parliament, from entering this country to express his views.

The Canadian media found a more effective way to suppress Galloway's controversial opinions, of course, by largely ignoring his eventual Canadian speaking tour, which took place in the fall after his Canadian supporters persuaded the courts to overturn the Conservative government's risible travel ban.

Unlike the Canadian government and media, let's allow Galloway, who addressed a standing-room-only crowd Nov. 25 in the University of Alberta Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies' 2,200-seat lecture theatre, to speak for himself on this important topic that is once again in the news pages:

Galloway said: "I believe, and I don't know anybody who is objective in this matter who does not believe, that Hezbollah are absolutely innocent of this crime, and it is time that the tribunal looked to the people who benefited from this crime …in Israel.

"Any law student here knows, the first thing you do when confronted with a crime is ask the question, cui bono, who benefited?

"Did Syria benefit from the killing of the Sunni leader in Lebanon? Syria lost everything.

"Did Hezbollah benefit? Would Hezbollah benefit from destroying forever the respect and admiration that the Sunni Muslim population, not just in Lebanon but throughout the Arab and Muslim world, had towards them? No! They would lose everything.

"But Israel gained everything from this crime. It deepened the schism between Sunni and Shia in Lebanon. It deepened the schism between Sunni and Shia throughout the Muslim world. They plunged Lebanon into absolute chaos, and may do so again in the next few days and months.

"So, the leader of the Lebanese resistance, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech two weeks ago, three weeks ago, in which he said, 'Any hand that comes to arrest any member of the resistance, we will cut that hand off.' This is a very serious moment.

"If this tribunal issues this indictment and anyone seeks to implement it, there will be war in Lebanon and there will be war almost certainly between Israel and Lebanon, and all of us will be dragged into it one way or another.

"And Canada cannot escape that because the head of the tribunal is Canadian, the so-called investigators who are bringing this indictment, the majority of them are Canadian, and of all the television stations in the world, the one that was chosen to give the leaked and highly distorted version of events last week was … (the) CBC …

"…Anybody who knows Lebanon knows what wars in Lebanon can be like. And anybody who knows what wars in Lebanon can be like, knows the combustibility and incendiary possibilities that will then exist across the borders of other Arab countries and between Sunni and Shia Muslims in the world.

"So I hope even at this very late hour that the tribunal will not do this, but if they do then the situation will be very serious."

Click here to watch a video of this portion of Mr. Galloway's talk.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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