‘battleground is the Media,’ Herzog Tells Montreal Audience

President Chaim Herzog of Israel declared here Wednesday night that in his country’s present struggle, “the battleground is the media” and “the strategic objective is world opinion.”

“We have to take the initiative from the hands of our enemies,” Herzog said in a speech to some 2,000 Canadian Jews at Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue.

He blasted the news media for “cruel, distorted, prejudiced coverage” of Israel’s handling of the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“The choreographed scenes of stone-throwing youngsters were directed to the households of Western world audiences,” Herzog said.

“We are faced with the choice of maintaining the law as the basis for bilateral negotiations or allowing the situation to deteriorate into a new edition of Beirut or Teheran,” he said.

He vowed, however, that Israel would never “use the methods of the Soviet Union in the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia” where bullets and poison gas were fired at demonstrators.

Herzog, the first president of Israel to make an official visit to Canada, arrived here Wednesday from Ottawa, where he had addressed a joint session of both houses of Parliament.

In an interview published in the Montreal Gazette, he took a hard line. “There can be no negotiations between us and the Palestinians before violence ends,” he told the newspaper.

“Our refusal to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization is based on its refusal to amend the PLO Covenant, which calls for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

TRADE RELATIONS DISCUSSED

In his speech at Shaar Hashamayim, Herzog urged Canadian Jews to make aliyah. “We need you,” he said.

“Your children should come and settle in Israel. We don’t call them to drain the swamps. That has already been done. We wish them to integrate into a sophisticated society and contribute to Israel’s progress and the welfare of humanity,” he said.

Herzog’s first stop in Montreal was at City Hall, where he was received by Mayor Jean Dore and signed the Golden Book in the presence of Montreal’s Ashkenazic and Sephardic rabbis and other dignitaries.

He was guest of honor at a luncheon hosted by Jerry Weiner, the secretary of state for multiculturalism and citizenship, who is the only Jew in Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s Cabinet.

Weiner spoke of trade relations between Canada and Israel, which he said amounted to a quarter billion dollars a year.

He said Canada imports more from Israel than from any other country in the Middle East. About 40,000 Canadians visit Israel each year and 40,000 Israelis visit Canada, he said.

“Canada can never and will never abandon our support and our friendship for Israel and its people,” Weiner said.

Herzog met Wednesday night with the premier of Quebec province, Robert Bourassa. He and his wife attended a state dinner in their honor presided over by the lieutenant governor of the province, Gilles Lamontagne.

On Thursday morning, the Israeli president met with local Jewish businessmen before leaving for Toronto, where he is spending the final two days of his six-day visit.

According to Alan Rose, executive vice president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Herzog’s visit is “a total success.”

“He made a tremendous impact on politicians in this country,” Rose said.

NEXT STORY