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Newsdesk January 24, 2003

Lebanese Envoy Slammed

Lebanon’s top diplomat in Canada has landed in political hot water following undiplomatic comments about the influence of Canada’s Jewish community.

Raymond Baaklini, the Lebanese ambassador, drew a stern rebuke from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham following remarks to an Arabic-language newspaper in Montreal in which he claimed that “Zionists” owned 90% of the country’s media and that Zionist pressure had forced the government to add Lebanon-based Hezbollah to its list of terrorist organizations.

Israel Asper, Canada’s leading media magnate and the apparent target of Baaklini’s comments, called for his expulsion, a demand that was echoed by major Jewish organizations. Even some local Arab groups distanced themselves from the envoy’s remarks. The Canadian government, however, does not plan to ask Lebanon to recall him.

Baaklini comments on Canada’s recent decision to ban Hezbollah first appeared in the New Year’s Eve edition of the Arabic paper Sada al Machric. “The most stubborn party benefiting from this subject is the Zionist party that exists in Canada,” he said. “As you know this party controls 90% of the Canadian media. It takes instructions and help from many Zionist organizations either in Canada or abroad.”

Academic Returns Diploma

Protesting a student union’s banning of a campus Hillel chapter, a Canadian academic has returned his diploma to Montreal’s Concordia University.

In a January 15 letter to Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy, David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies and a professor of history at the University of Calgary, lashed out at Concordia and its student union. “Of course my fundamental objection is to the gang of Hitler Jugend who control the student union at your university,” Bercuson wrote. “But I am equally disturbed at the complete failure of you and your board to take any action against that gang other than to quote rules about how student unions are constituted.” Bercuson added that he would mail back his 1966 diploma, his honorary degree and the silver medal he was awarded for high standing in history.

Hillel was expelled December 2 by the pro-Palestinian student union executive for distributing recruitment pamphlets for an Israeli military volunteer corps.

Committee May Be Saved

Pro-Israel activists in Washington are expecting that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a strongly pro-Israel Florida Republican, will be appointed next month to head the Middle East and South Asia subcommittee of the House international relations committee.

Her expected appointment would keep the subcommittee from folding, under pressure from House leaders who are required by law to reduce the number of Congressional subcommittees.

The off-again, on-again subcommittee, resurrected two years ago by former Republican Rep. Ben Gilman of New York, has served as an instrument for pro-Israel congressional activity. Pro-Israel activists lobbied for Ros-Lehtinen, and according to sources on the Hill convinced Republican leaders to keep the subcommittee under the leadership of Ros-Lehtinen, the first Cuban American to be elected to Congress.

Few Jews at Anti-War Rally

Attendance by Jewish groups was sparse at last weekend’s anti-war demonstrations in Washington. Among the tens of thousands of participants in Saturday’s demonstration were members of the Baltimore Jewish Cultural Chavurah, Baltimore Jews for Israeli-Palestinian Peace and the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta. Last week the Anti-Defamation League expressed concern over the main organizer of Saturday’s rally, International Answer, an acronym for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, saying its previous rallies “included significant anti-Israel propaganda.”

On Sunday, the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center was the only Jewish group to participate in a smaller demonstration in downtown Washington. Shalom Center director Rabbi Arthur Waskow said he thought it was important for Jews to take a stand, “so that people won’t think that Judaism doesn’t care about making peace.”

Al Hirschfeld Dies at 99

Al Hirschfeld, who drew caricatures of Broadway personalities for more than 75 years, died Monday in New York at 99. He was known for his drawings of personalities ranging from the Marx Brothers to Carol Channing to Sammy Davis Jr., many of which appeared in The New York Times. “My contribution is to take the character — created by the playwright and acted out by the author — and reinvent it for the reader,” he said. Among Hirschfeld’s drawings is one of the late Chabad-Lubavitch rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

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