Ambassador (ret’d) Paul Heinbecker reflects on the death of a Canadian peacekeeper at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces and how the current government seems to have forgotten about his sacrifice (“Unfriendly fire: The casualty of war Ottawa would rather forget“, iPolitics, 11 November 2014):
On this Remembrance Day, I am remembering one Canadian peacekeeper in particular — someone the Harper government probably prefers to forget.
Major Paeta Hess von Kruedener was killed (along with three other UN observers) by the Israelis in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war. Then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan characterized the attack as “deliberate targeting by Israeli Defence Forces.”
The UN, from senior executives in New York down to the UN forces on the ground, had warned the Israelis repeatedly that day (a dozen times, I was told by UN officials) that their artillery fire was endangering UN officers.
The Israelis ended up dropping a bomb on the UN position, killing all four observers. On February 6, 2008, following a Department of Defence Board of Inquiry (BOI), Cynthia, the wife of Major Hess von Kruedener, issued a statement:
“… Just so we’re clear, “the incident” refers to the 500 lb, precision-guided bomb that was dropped on the UN bunker containing my husband and his fellow Peace Keepers, who were unarmed and serving the world community in the pursuit of peace.”
The full report of the Board of Inquiry was quietly removed from the Department of National Defence website. What is left there is a news release that quotes then-Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier calling the incident “a tragic accident” — a description that Mrs. Hess von Kruedener’s statement flatly rejects, as do the politically inconvenient facts.
Mrs. Hess von Kruedener appealed to Parliament to “debate the findings of the Board of Inquiry, and through our Foreign Minister, take this issue to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.” She urged Members of Parliament to “make the safety of peacekeepers a priority.”
To our collective shame, nothing was done.
The Harper government seems content to let this particular sacrifice disappear in the mists of time. Lest we remember.”