lan Watson, one of seven members of Parliament — Liberal and Conservative — on an Arab League-sponsored tour of the Middle East, has reacted sharply to protests by Canadian Jewish groups against their meeting with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat in Amman, Jordan last week.
Watson, a Liberal from Quebec, said in a telephone interview from Baghdad on Thursday that the Jewish groups should ask themselves what their priorities are. “Are the Jews in favor of Canada’s international policies on the Middle East or are they in support of the present Israeli regime’s policies, a regime which has a former terrorist as Prime Minister?” Watson asked. He was referring apparently to Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s leadership of the underground Stem group in pre-State Palestine.
An aide to Watson said in Ottawa that the MP does not consider himself to be representing Canada on this trip. “I want to stress that Mr. Watson is taking the trip as a representative of the Canada-Arab World Parliamentarian Group, not as a representative of Canada or the Arab League,” the aide said.
This applies to the six other MPs on the trip, as was pointed out last week when the Canada-Israel Committee denounced the meeting with Arafat as “an embarrassment to all Canadians.” Frank Diamond, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith in Canada said he was distressed that MPs “who represent Canada would meet with a terrorist.” (See March 1 Bulletin.)
The office of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party (who announced his resignation last week) said Trudeau had not sanctioned the trip. A spokesman for Brian Mulroney, leader of the opposition Conservative Party, said Mulroney was not aware of it.
The seven MPs are still in the Middle East. In addition to Jordan and Iraq, they are visiting Syria Tunis and the West Bank.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.