Zeid Terzi, the Palestine Liberation Organization representative at the United Nations, may have done the cause of the PLO more harm than good by his appearance before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee last Thursday.
The feelings of many members of Parliament were summed up by one Senator who had opposed Terzi’s visit. He said that Terzi “was so rigid, so ungiving, that he discouraged even his few supporters among the members of the (Foreign Affairs) Committee.”
Another Member of Parliament, Sinclair Stevens of the opposition Conservative Party, a critic of the government’s foreign policy, denounced the Administration of Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau for inviting Terzi to testify before the Committee, which was reviewing Canada’s policy in the Middle East, by declaring: “Why did you let it happen? Why did you permit this PLO representative to appear before the Senate?”
Liberal Party MPs from Toronto and Montreal, representing constituencies with large numbers of Jewish voters, expressed dissatisfaction over the invitation to Trudeau during a party caucus.
ONTARIO PREMIER ISSUES STRONG PROTEST
Ontario Premier William Davis, who ordinarily does not intrude in non-provincial matters, sent a strongly worded protest to Trudeau. He expressed “genuine concern” that the PLO official had been invited. “I would suggest that this scheduled appearance is inappropriate, given PLO involvement in terrorist attacks and other violent activities,” Davis stated.
“I regret the fact that, as Prime Minister, you have chosen not to exert your undoubted influence to convince members of the Senate Committee to reconsider this ill-advised appearance.” He said he hoped that this incident would not establish a precedent for future invitations being extended to the PLO.
Liberal MPs Jim Peterson and the Rev. Rolande De Corneille also protested the invitation, but Liberal MP lan Watson said Terzi’s appearance was a step forward in the level of consciousness about the eventual role of the PLO in a Mideast settlement.
Jean-Luc Pepin, Secretary of State for External Affairs, answering for the government in the absence of Foreign Affairs Minister Allan McEachen, who is on tour of Central America, said that Terzi was invited “just because we wanted to hear the viewpoints of both parties.”
FIRST PUBLIC TESTIMONY BY PLO OFFICIAL
Terzi, who is officially the PLO’s observer at the UN, was the final witness in the two-year review of Canada’s policy in the Mideast which focussed primarily on the Arab-Israeli conflict. This was the first time that a PLO representative was asked to testify publicly before a legislative body in Canada.
Ann Gross, president of the Canada-Israel Committee, pointed out that the Committee had already heard from Abdallah Abdallah, the official representative of the Arab League and of the PLO in Ottawa, in closed session, and that several members of the Committee, on a recent visit to the Mideast, met with Khalid Al-Fahum, chairman of the Palestine National Council.
“Obviously, the invitation extended to Terzi is not for getting any additional information but in order to make a political statement,” she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “Now they invite a third representative of the PLO when they failed to invite representatives of Jordan, Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
In his testimony, Terzi repeated the official PLO propaganda by asking Canada to recognize the PLO and influence Israel to negotiate with the PLO. When a Senator asked him why the PLO refuses to recognize the existence of the State of Israel, Terzi answered that Israel should recognize the PLO first.
Terzi was forced to enter the Parliament through a back door as dozens of Jewish students occupied the main entrance and demonstrated in protest against the invitation extended to him to testify.
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.