Members of the Jewish and Lebanese Christian communities in Windsor are outraged by the appearance of a billboard that appears to promote Hezbollah — an organization the Canadian government considers terrorist.
“That organization is banned in Canada,” said Harvey Kessler, executive director of the Windsor Jewish Community Centre. “How can that billboard be up in Windsor when it represents a terrorist organization which is banned under the laws of Canada?”
Located at the southwest corner of Marion Avenue and Wyandotte Street East, the billboard does not mention Hezbollah by name, but features a central image of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the controversial political and military group that represents Lebanese Shia Muslims and has clashed with Israeli troops for more than 20 years.
Mr. Kessler said he feels Hassan Nasrallah represents “the opposite of peace.”
“It should be offensive to all people living in Windsor. It should be offensive not only to the Jewish community, but to any Canadian.”
Emile Nabbout, president of the Windsor branch of the Lebanese Christian political group Kataeb, said he also thinks Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, and he feels the billboard creates a misconception of the views of Windsor’s Lebanese community.
“We really are not in support or in favour of that billboard and it should be removed ASAP,” Mr. Nabbout said.
The image of Hassan Nasrallah is flanked by four other Lebanese political figures. “All those individuals in that picture… they are in opposition to the Lebanese government right now,” Mr. Nabbout said.
“By just analyzing the picture, there is no doubt in my mind this is a Hezbollah activity,” he added.
Printed in English on the left side of the billboard are the words: “Lebanese and Arab communities in Windsor city congratulate the Lebanese people for their steadfastness and endeavor to establish peace in Lebanon.”
But Mr. Nabbout said that Arabic writing which appears on the right side of the billboard does not match the English translation. According to Mr. Nabbout, the Arabic writing makes a reference to fighting.
“What they mean by ‘fight’ is basically ‘guerrilla’ — using arms and weapons,” Mr. Nabbout said. “Basically, there is a very specific word… That is a definite difference between the Arabic and the English.”
Contacted on Friday night, Mayor Eddie Francis said he was made aware of the billboard earlier in the day. Asked if he is concerned about its presence, Mayor Francis said: “The politics of Lebanon belong in Lebanon, not on the streets of Windsor.”
Mayor Francis said he has no idea who was responsible for the billboard, but the city is now looking into whether its content violates any rules.
Mr. Kessler said he has talked to Chief Glenn Stannard of Windsor police about the billboard, as well as the mayor. He said he has made calls to councillors, the city’s race and ethnocultural relations committee, RCMP and CSIS.
“I understand that everyone is looking at strategies under the Canadian law to get it down. Because it is not appropriate,” Mr. Kessler said.
Mr. Nabbout said members of the Lebanese Christian community have made calls to local MPs Joe Comartin and Brian Masse about the issue.
But Sam Ali, a 39-year-old Lebanese-born Windsor resident, said he supports the billboard’s message, and he believes many in the city’s Lebanese population feel the same way.
According to Mr. Ali, the accusations that Hezbollah is terrorist are untrue. “Hezbollah is freedom fighting. Whoever calls them terrorist is a liar,” he said.
Mr. Ali, a Muslim, said Hassan Nasrallah has done good things, helping people with hospitals and medicine. “When Nasrallah speaks in Lebanon, a million and a half or two million people go into the street to listen.”
Fellow Lebanese native and Muslim Ghina Maawie said she doesn’t understand why anyone would be offended by the billboard. “When I saw it, I felt so happy and so proud of it,” she said. “In Canada, we have freedom of speech.”
Ms. Maawie also dismissed the criticisms of Hezbollah. “For anyone to defend Lebanon, they call them terrorist. All we did is defend our country.”
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after a July 11, 2007 article by Dalson Chen in The Windsor Star