OTTAWA (Apr. 28)
Jean Chretien, Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce, said here today that Canada is “prepared to pay the price” to protect its citizens from discrimination arising from the Arab boycott of Israel. He said that a number of Canadian firms already have stopped exporting to the Arab states and Israel and there has been a general decline of interest in doing business in the Middle East. Chretien addressed 500 members and guests at the closing dinner of the sixth annual meeting of the National Canada Israel Committee.
He said that the Canadian government does not accept that Canadian companies be required, as a condition of doing business, to discriminate against other Canadians on the grounds of race, religion, national or ethnic origin, whether the boycott is primary, secondary or tertiary. However, he observed that “the U.S. experience suggests that in the vast majority of cases, discrimination is not a factor or foundation of the boycott.”
According to Chretien, “In the U.S., out of 110,000 instances of boycott requests to U.S. businessmen over nine months last year, only 11 cases were considered by the U.S. authorities to be cases of discrimination and when U.S. authorities questioned such cases, their Arab counterparts usually brushed them aside as being mistakes by overzealous clerks.”
WILL VISIT THE MIDEAST
The Minister stressed that while Canada wants and seeks trade and friendships with the Arab nations as well as with Israel, the Canadian government protects Canadians from foreign-imposed practices. He said that in two weeks he will be leaving on a trip to Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia accompanied by teams of Canadian businessmen in order to increase economic relations between Canada and Middle Eastern countries.
Chretien said that while he is in Israel he would open the first meeting of the Canadian-Israel Joint Economic Committee, established when Israeli Foreign Minister Yigal Allon visited Canada several months ago. The principal objective of the group is common economic ventures in third countries with Canada supplying the capital and Israel know-how.
In a reference to the situation in Quebec, now governed by the separatist Parti Quebecois, Chretien who himself comes from that province, urged Jews to remain, not “run away to another corner of the continent.” He said “when we have to face a problem like the rising nationalism in Quebec, running away is not the answer.”
ISRAEL COMMITTED TO SOLVING CONFLICT
Shlomo Avineri, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the conference last night that “the government of Israel is committed to a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that will solve the Palestinian problem completely.” He stated that Israel feels “that the negotiations to open between Israel and the Arab neighbors will lead to a lasting peace. When the time will come for negotiations, Israel will ask that a solution be found to the Palestinian problem.”
Avineri recalled that in 1948 the Israelis accepted the partition of Palestine and were it not for the Arab countries, the Arab population of Palestine would also have accepted the partition. He explained that a Palestinian state on the West Bank was “a non-solution,” mainly because the poor land on the western bank of the Jordan could not absorb even 100,000 refugees, let alone 600,000.
“It will not be able to do anything meaningful for the Palestinian refugees,” he said. “We would like to see rather a solution of the Palestinian problem in the broader context of Jordan and the West Bank.” He added: “We cannot live with an Arab army on the western bank of the Jordan River but we can live with an Arab government on both sides of the Jordan River.”