Although the Canadian Jewish Congress held its national convention in Jerusalem expressly because Canadian-Israeli relations are deteriorating and for the purpose of demonstrating solidarity with Israel, the tasteless chutzpah of one of the Israeli keynote speakers served only to further alienate Canadian public opinion and underscore Israel's isolation in the international community.
In a speech that embarrassed Israeli diplomats and angered Canada's press, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens criticized the poor state of Canada-Israel relations, made a snide remark about the competence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and insisted that Ottawa had an "obligation" to provide financial aid to Israel.
Laughter and Applause
Arens denounced Canada's vote at the UN condemning Israel's handling of the Oct. 8 Temple Mount riot that left 18 Palestinians dead. "I asked the Canadian ambassador whether he really thought, or whether the people of Canada really thought, that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has something to teach the Israeli forces," he said, to laughter and applause.
The defense minister voiced dismay over Canada's refusal to grant financial assistance either for Israel's defense or for the massive immigration of Soviet Jews. (Ottawa considers Israel ineligible for aid because of its relatively high per capita income.) Arens insisted that "rich countries" like Canada "are obligated to come to the assistance of those affected" by the Gulf crisis, and that Israel was the country in the Middle East "most exposed and most affected." He urged his Canadian Jewish audience to press Canada to provide aid to Israel, a point likely to be raised again when Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy visits Ottawa this month.
The US-educated Arens expressed disappointment over current Canada-Israel ties, and said Canada should emulate American material and moral support for Israel.
On the subject of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, the defense minister said a "clash of values" between Israelis and Arabs makes it difficult to reach a negotiated settlement. Israel must deal with "animal-like behavior that those in the West don't even comprehend," he said.
The National Council on Canada-Arab Relations expressed outrage over Arens' remarks, especially over his request for economic assistance. "It's almost unbelievable to me that a bunch of right-wing fanatics -- and I include Arens in that group -- should be suggesting to Western democracies that they help with current policies that are leading Israel nowhere," said Executive Director Ian Watson. …