MONTREAL (May. 16)
Alan Rose, executive vice president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), said that “without exaggeration, there is a great sweep of anti-Semitism across Canada.”
Specifically, he told the 1,500 delegates attending the CJC’s 20th triennial plenary, he wanted “to express my profound concern that Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed did not take the proper attitude on the question of the Mayor of Eckville, who declared that the Holocaust did not exist.”
Rose was alluding to the case of James Keegstra, a high school teacher and Mayor of the village of Eckville, Alberta, who taught his classes that Jews are the root of all evil in the world and that the Holocaust never occurred. Keegstra, a member of the rightwing Social Credit Party of Canada, was ousted from the party only 10 days after he had been elected to its executive at its recent convention and three days after a federal judge upheld Keegstra’s dismissal from the Alberta school system.
Rose suggested that the Canadian criminal code be amended to deprive hate-mongers of freedom of speech.
APPEAL TO SAVE ETHIOPIAN JEWS
On another issue, Rose reported that he had visited Ethiopia last year and stated that the problem is how to save the Jews of that country. He asserted that the government of Israel is the only one saving Ethiopian Jews and that no one should point a finger and accuse it of doing too little for those Jews. There has been criticism to this effect by Ethiopian Jews who managed to escape and those who are campaigning on behalf of Ethiopian Jews here, in the United States and in Israel.
Rabbi Joseph Hadani, spiritual leader of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, delivered an impassioned appeal for action to save Ethiopian Jews who, he said, are threatened with extinction, particularly in Ethiopia’s Gondar province.
The CJC has reportedly enrolled a large number of Canadian political leaders in its effort for Ethiopian Jews, including Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
CANADA-ISRAEL RELATIONS ASSESSED
In a discussion of Canada-Israel relations, Harold Buchwald, a lawyer from Winnipeg who is the president of the Canada-Israel Committee, said the Canadian government’s policy toward Israel had been affected by a number of events last year, particularly Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. But he added that “Canada’s commitment to Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign and secure country is as strong as a rock and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”
At the same time, Buchwald said, it is the Canadian government’s policy to support the Camp David agreement and the right of the Palestinians to a homeland on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which, he said, does not exclude the creation of a Palestinian state if the parties concerned agree to one.
Buchwald declared that if the Canadian government strongly disagrees with the West Bank settlement policy of the government of Premier Menachem Begin, it is also a fact that there will be no Canadian government recognition of the PLO until the PLO recognizes Israel’s right to exist and ceases its terrorist activities. He said the mood of the Canadian government is one of “full support for Israel despite a growing sympathy for the Palestinians, in each political party, particularly after the massacres last year in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.” Buchwald added that “the majority of Canadians are against official recognition of the PLO, while there is almost unanimous support for a secure and sovereign Israel among all Canadians.”
SAYS ISRAEL MUST BE STRONG
Yeshayahu Anug, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, said he realized that, despite the “wholesale support” for Israel throughout Canada, some Canadian Jews are combining a faith for Israel with a “certain discomfort.” He pointed out that “nobody asks you to be responsible for the policies of Israel,” adding that Israel must be strong “because without this strength, there is not much that can be done” for Israel, “by sympathies only.”
Anug said that, with good will on both sides, the present volume of trade between Canada and Israel can be quadrupled and that this was also true for scientific cooperation between the two countries.
A similar approach was presented by Jim Peterson, a Liberal MP from Willowdale, Ontario, who expressed his hope for a continuous expansion of Canada-Israel relations. He stated that Canada takes immense pride in Israel’s achievements, noting: “What other country would take the moral responsibility for the aftermath of the Sabra and Shatila massacres?”
At another session of the CJC plenary, the unity of the Jewish people and the joint efforts of Israel and diaspora Jewry to rekindle the Jewish spirit were stressed by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, and Yosef Burg, Israel’s Interior Minister.
Burg observed that the Jewish people are the “remnants of people” who survived from one tragedy to another. He emphasized the need for unity between Israel and the diaspora if Judaism is to survive.
Bronfman described Israel as the “center of our concern.” He added, however, “The free expression of the youth of our community will ensure the future of the Jewish people as a whole. Not to speak out frankly and sincerely our views if we disagree sometimes with the official policy of Israel will endanger our relations with our governments and even our relations with our children.”
Bronfman spoke at length of the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union, Syria and Ethiopia. He also referred to his visits last month to Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Costa Rica and announced he will visit South Africa next month. He said that in his travels he found that “despite existing difficulties, I came away with the feeling that we are one people and I ask the Jewish organizations to stop fighting the battles of the past.”
The Samuel Bronfman Award was presented at the session to Judge Maxwell Cohen of the International Court of Justice at The Hague and to Dr. Jacob Michael Goldenberg of Saskatoon.