- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

JERUSALEM Canadians have been told not to wear their nation's red maple-leaf symbol on knapsacks and other articles when touring abroad, especially in Arab countries, for fear of retribution for their nation's recent ban on the Lebanese-based Islamic movement Hezbollah.
The advice will dismay some American backpackers who have adopted the "disguise" of a maple leaf in place of an American flag, especially since September 11, in the belief that it would shield them from hostility.
The warning was issued Dec. 31 by the recently arrived Lebanese ambassador to Canada, Raymond Baaklini, in a two-page written statement published in a Lebanese Arabic newspaper, Sada al Machric.
According to a literal translation published in Canada's National Post newspaper, he said the ban would provoke reaction in the Middle East. "I am afraid it will be urgent for a Canadian to wear a non-Canadian T-shirt in Lebanon and the Arabic world," he said.
Even before that, Hezbollah spokesman Sheik Hassan Izzedine was quoted by a Canadian television network as saying the cutoff last month of fund-raising activities in Canada by Hezbollah could arouse "hatred" for Canadians among the Muslim and Arab peoples.
The Lebanese ambassador was also quoted as saying that the Canadian ban on Hezbollah was the result of Zionist control of the media.
The Canadian government is studying the original Arabic text of the remarks. Mr. Baaklini has been called to the Foreign Ministry and reprimanded.
In Jerusalem, the foreign-affairs spokesman for Canada's opposition National Alliance party, Stockwell Day, demanded that Mr. Baaklini be ordered to leave Canada.
"It is a veiled threat against the safety of our citizens, and Ambassador Raymond Baaklini must be removed from Canadian soil," Mr. Day said in an interview during a multiparty parliamentary tour of Israel.
"It's the type of statement someone would make who's trying to intimidate Canadians into not speaking their minds, specifically legislators. The implication is that violence could be inflicted on innocent Canadians because of the positions taken by legislators or elected representatives," he said.
Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham said Hezbollah was banned because of its actions, not because of pressure from pro-Israel groups or newspapers in Canada, according to another leading Canadian newspaper, the Toronto Globe and Mail.
It quoted Mr. Graham as saying that Mr. Baaklini needed to learn more "about Canada's multicultural democracy and emphasis on tolerance."
The Liberal government banned Hezbollah last month after public statements by a number of former top security officials and police that the group was using the country for illegal activities. Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, has also spoken of expanding the use of suicide bombings, which it pioneered in the Middle East.
Canada listed Hezbollah as a terrorist organization along with Hamas and Islamic Jihad a year ago, but until December barred only its armed wing from operating in Canada. Supporters of the group argued that it was also a legitimate provider of social services in Lebanon.
The United States and Britain have long maintained bans on activities by all three organizations.
B'nai B'rith's Frank Dimant, whose organization had filed a legal action aiming to force the total Hezbollah ban, said the ambassador's remark about T-shirts was an "implied threat" and called it intolerable.
"It shows an astonishing and disturbing lack of sensitivity to Canadian issues, especially when the Middle East is filled with tension, and the government should demand that the ambassador be replaced."
Mr. Day said security officials had informed him of Hezbollah involvement in numerous hijackings, the abduction of a Canadian, the blowing up of American and French facilities in Lebanon and attacks on a Jewish community center in Argentina that left 100 persons dead.
"Until September 11, [Hezbollah] had the record for killing Americans," he said. "I see Hezbollah, al Qaeda and Hamas as similar in that their attacks are on freedom-loving, democracy-loving nations."


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