OTTAWA (Mar. 13)
Canadian Jews are reacting with shock and anger to a speech by External Affairs Minister Joe Clark in which he said Canada condemned Israel for human rights violations in the administered territories.
Clark, whose full title is minister of state for external affairs, spoke here Thursday night at the closing session of the ninth annual Parliamentary Conference of the Canada-Israel Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying organization. He accused Israel of violating the Geneva Convention with regard to the treatment of Palestinian civilians.
The Canadian Jewish Congress released a statement Sunday in the name of its president, Dorothy Reitman, demanding that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney “immediately repudiate Mr. Clark’s intemperate and unhelpful statement, which has caused shock and indignation in the Jewish community.”
The CJC, along with B’nai B’rith Canada and the Canadian Zionist Federation, comprise the Canada-Israel Committee.
Alan Rose, CJC executive vice president, said in a radio interview Friday morning that his organization asked for a meeting with Mulroney to find out “if Canada’s policy has switched from a balanced one to a pro-Palestinian one.” If it has, “Canadians of the Jewish faith will organize meetings of protest,” he said.
In his speech, twice interrupted by jeers from the audience and a walkout by about 100 of them, Clark said, “We condemn violence committed by either side in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but the human rights violations perpetrated by Israel are unacceptable.”
BOOS AND CATCALLS
“The withholding of food supplies to Gaza and the refugee camps, the using of tear gas against the population, the beatings, the arrests are contrary to international law. The use of beatings… (has) created great dissatisfaction among Canadians,” he continued, provoking a two-minute round of boos and catcalls from most of the 800 people in the audience.
Reading from his prepared statement, Clark said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein of Jordan told him they “sincerely wish to see peace in the Middle East and make peace with Israel, but that they cannot intervene in the present disturbances.”
The audience again interrupted him with several minutes of boos.
He said Canada is “committed to support Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized borders while we share the profound desire of Canadians that the legitimate rights of the Palestinians be respected. It is time to arrive at a compromise: territory for peace.”
According to local newspapers, Clark’s remarks drew an overwhelmingly favorable response from the Canadian public. The Foreign Office reportedly received 493 telephone calls after Clark spoke supporting his position and 27 calls opposed.