Both Lebanese and Israeli communities in Toronto say the recent war in Lebanon had a powerful impact, regardless of the distance. Some even believe the current climate in the Middle East may lead to terrorist attacks in this city.
The 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel, sparked protests across the country. Arab and Muslim organizations in Toronto generated their crowds of supporters and on occasion the Israelis also formed their own counter-rally. As pro-Lebanon and pro-Hezbollah chants mounted among the crowds in Toronto, some speculate about the safety of the city and its prospects of witnessing terrorist attacks.
Target for Terror
Steve Samuel, a pro-Israeli protester at the Aug. 12 rally in front of the Israeli consulate, voiced his concerns for Toronto and said the massive pictures of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah may indicate seeds of terrorism in the city.
“Terrorism is already here, we already know it,” he said, “and these people will support those terrorist organizations and their actions.”
Fares Badr, the president of Al-Mahda Lebanese Cultural Society, a primarily Christian-Maronite organization, held a different view.
“Lebanese people were not forced to come to Canada. We benefit from this community, so how can you be a threat to a country which gives you an experience of multiculturalism, a solution that you would want in your own country?” he said.
Adnan Noureddine, the president of Al-Huda Lebanese Muslim Society, a pre-dominantly Shiite organization, said the potential for terrorism may be present in Toronto.
“I don’t think it will happen from among the Lebanese people, but don’t forget that too much pressure will generate an explosion,” Noureddine said.
“Terrorism is possible here because anything is possible. But we need to ask the reason why terrorism happens; there would be no terrorism if there was no pressure amongst people.”
Noureddine said when the Arab people feel they cannot vent and express themselves within society, it creates pressure within the people, opening doors to all sorts of possibilities.
“It is actually the role of the government to release some pressure and ease it, which they can do by taking a balanced stand in their foreign policy,” he said. “This is not the Israeli government in Canada, so why is the Canadian government taking the stand of the Israeli government?”
Howard English, the vice-president of marketing and communications at the United Jewish Appeal Federation, said although the potential for terrorism is always present, he does not see a link between this war and a terrorist attack in the city.
“Islamic militants would really not need the war with Hezbollah as a motivation for carrying out unpleasant acts. For someone who is already militant-minded, the war with Hezbollah is not necessarily a trigger,” he said.
But English said he knew not everyone in the city believed in the philosophy of discussion and dialogue, and said he is not so “naïve” as to believe everyone in Toronto is peace-loving.
“We know from demonstrations that there are supporters of Hezbollah in Toronto,” he said, “and a supporter of Hezbollah is a supporter of a terrorist organization and all the things that a terrorist organization stands for.”
Multiculturalism in Tatters?
Noureddine identified another threat that surfaced during the war. He said Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stance during the war indicates a threat to multiculturalism in Canada, since the government clearly sided with one community over another.
“The one-sided stand of the government is jeopardizing multiculturalism,” he said. “The government of Canada has sided with the government of Israel, against Lebanon, and we as Arabs and Muslims here are threatened because our government is more or less against us.”
But Paul Michaels, the director of communications at the Canada-Israeli Committee, said the opposition of the Arab and Muslim community against Harper is “just flat-out wrong.”
“I wouldn’t tie the threat to multiculturalism to Harper’s position at all,” he said. “He was in keeping with the G-8, and his position was not a radical position. People are forgetting that the Liberals were the ones who placed Hamas and Hezbollah on the terrorist list.”
Walid el-Awar, president of the Canadian Druze Society (Druze comprise a 10-per-cent ethnic minority in Lebanon) said the war worked to the benefit of multiculturalism.
“I think the war worked towards multiculturalism’s advantage. It is opening doors for our communities to get together. We always invite the Israeli community members to our center and we say we should do what is best for Canada first and then we will do what is best for our countries. I am sure if we do that, we can even affect the situation over there as well.”
For more information visit:
Canada-Israeli Committee: www.cicweb.ca/index.cfm
United Jewish Appeal Federation: www.jewishtoronto.net/
Al-Huda Lebanese Muslim Society: www.hlms.org/
Canadian Druze Society: www.druze.net/