March/April 2000

Prime Minister Chretien's Middle East Visit


A Breath of Fresh Air Breathed Into Canadian Foreign Policy ?

Canadian PM Makes Groundbreaking Visit

Canadian Prime Minister Arrives

Canadian PM's Visit: A Breath of Fresh Air Breathed Into Canadian Foreign Policy ?

by Alan C. Lazerte B.A., L.LB

The Canadian media, both print and television, have been roasting P.M. Chretien for some "unconventional" remarks he has made during his current tour of the Middle East.

The usual criticism is put in the context of "contrary to Canadian foreign policy of not taking sides in the Middle East, Prime Minister Chretien today said:" (followed by the latest alleged "gaff" he has made while on tour).

To this we say "humbug" ! Since when was Canadian Foreign policy "neutral" in the Middle East struggle? It has been consistently anti-Zionist throughout. We won't say "anti-Semitic" because that phrase has been updated by "anti-Zionist".

We don't have space here to document this allegation, but visit our UN & ISRAEL section; particularly those "flagged" with a Canadian flag. The myth of Canadian neutrality needs to be punctured !

In truth, what we are witnessing is a Prime Minister who is using his head, and speaking from his heart, not from an official "Foreign Affairs Memo" Anyone standing on the Golan Heights looking down into the entire northern section of Israel can see at a glance that if a sworn enemy possesses those Heights, that enemy is in control (regardless of borders); and the Israelis are literally "under the gun". It was from those Heights that Syria launched the 1973 infamous "Yom Kippur War" (together with Egypt and Jordan), on Israel's Day of Atonement.

For the P.M. to say in Gaza (after advising Arafat NOT to Unilaterally Declare Independence) that Arafat will undoubtedly use that threat as leverage in negotiations with Israel, is only to say the truth; in fact the obvious; really exactly what has been going on ever since the Intifada started.

Diplomacy is a hypocritical game: "Never say what you mean; and never mean what you say". True bilateral negotiations are the ONLY possible way to avoiding armed conflict if not total reconciliation, whether in politics or in marriages !.

Let the "Power Brokers" go home and tend to their own nation's problems; that is what they were really elected to do in the first place.

Three cheers for Prime Minister Chretien's courageous, politically incorrect, thoughtful words !

Canadian PM Makes Groundbreaking Visit

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien became the first-ever Canadian head-of-state to visit the nation of Israel on Sunday. He is scheduled to meet with Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Ezer Weizman and Foreign Minister David Levy concerning the ongoing peace talks and economic ties. His 12-day Middle East tour includes stops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.

On Sunday, Chretien apologized at Yad Vashem for Canada's failure to provide a safe haven for Jews during the Holocaust. "Yes, errors were made in the past," Chretien said. "But as you know, Canada is the most open nation today for refugees all over the world."

Canada became known as a sanctuary for Nazi fugitives, many of whom relocated there after WWII. But the Canadian government was unwilling to let in even one Jewish refugee from the Nazis, adopting the infamous response: "None is too many."

Dr. Robert Rozett, director of the Yad Vashem library, read for Chretien the Canadian delegate's letter from the 1938 Evian Conference on how to treat Jewish refugees: "The trouble is that the more that is done for them the more of them there will be... So nothing will be done by Canada." Chretien, who visited Auschwitz in 1999, was clearly troubled by the decree as his face turned somber. He described the ceremony as "emotional."

After the tour, Chretien laid a wreath in memory of Holocaust victims at the Hall of Remembrance. Then, after walking through the Children's Exhibit, he wrote a brief note in Yad Vashem's guest book: "As prime minister of Canada, I pledge to you that Canada will take a leading role to ensure that such atrocities never happen again."

Until 1994, Canada attempted to prosecute Nazi war criminals, with limited success. Since then the Canadian Justice Department has intensified efforts to identify and expel suspected war criminals to the countries from which they entered Canada. For example, Canada canceled the citizenship of Helmut Oberlander, a former SS death squad member, a few weeks ago.

The environment has "dramatically improved from '85-'86, when Canada was in fact a [Nazi] safe haven," confirmed Jack Silverstone, executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress. He added that Canada is one of the few countries that has current cases against Nazi war criminals.

In defining his nation's role the Middle East, Chretien described Canada's involvement in the peace process as modest but consistent. "We are not a major participant in the peace process in the Middle East, but Canada has always been present in the peacekeeping mission." When asked about the prospect of dispatching soldiers to Lebanon after Israel's withdrawal, Chretien responded: "If we are asked, Canada will be there."

Currently, there are two hundred and twenty Canadian soldiers assigned to the Golan Heights as part of the UN's multinational forces there, and another twenty Canadian soldiers stationed with UN forces in the Sinai. Canada heads the working group on refugees delineated in the framework of the multilateral talks, and also has representatives in the working groups on security arrangements, disarmament and environment.

Chretien has friendly, but mostly economic, relations with Arab world leaders, due mainly to the lack of democratic commonalties. Thus Chretien is less concerned with the security situation in the area and more interested in influencing the economy and markets.

He met with PA chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza on Monday, and received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the evening. Tuesday he is to see the Golan, Nazareth, and Beit Gavriel on the Kinneret.

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Canadian Prime Minister Arrives

By Viva Sarah Press

JERUSALEM (April 9) - Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien arrived at Ben-Gurion airport last night as part of a 12-day Mideast tour that will include trips to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt.

"Canada has special ties with Israel and we want to show our continued support for the peace process, to further bilateral trade, and [promote Canada's commercial interests] here," said Michael Kirby, an adviser to the Canadian prime minister.

Chretien, in office since 1993, is to meet today with President Ezer Weizman, Supreme Court President Aharon Barak, and Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Tomorrow he is to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Gaza. He is also to meet with Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert during his three-day visit.

Asked why Chretien is meeting with many Israeli officials and only one Palestinian official, Kirby replied: "The prime minister is on a 12-day trip. He'll be spending eight or nine days in Arab countries. While he's spending more time in Israel than in the occupied territories, most of his time will be spent in other Arab states." Kirby further acknowledged that Canada's relationship with Israel goes back to 1948, whereas it is much newer with the Palestinian Authority.

Canada has a long history of participation in Mideast peacekeeping missions, playing a central role in defusing the Suez Canal crisis in 1956 and introducing the modern-day concept of UN peacekeeping. Former premier Lester B. Pearson's efforts during the Suez Canal crisis won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Today a Canadian commands the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

Kirby said the peace process is only part of the reason Chretien is here. Referring to the free-trade agreement signed between Israel and Canada in 1997, Kirby told a press conference at the King David hotel in Jerusalem last night that the Canadian prime minister is also here to "improve our exchange in hi-tech areas." While Canada's ties with Israel go back to the founding of this state, this is the first visit by a Canadian prime minister in an official capacity.

Chretien is to visit Yad Vashem this morning, then meet with Weizman at Beit Hanassi, Justice Barak at the Supreme Court, and Prime Minister Barak at the Prime Minister's Office. Tomorrow evening he is to receive an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. On Tuesday he is to visit the Golan, Nazareth, and Beit Gavriel.

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