Editorial

If Joe Clark defies the will of Allah, will the entire Islamic world cut out his tongue?

Peter C. Newman June 25 1979
Editorial

If Joe Clark defies the will of Allah, will the entire Islamic world cut out his tongue?

Peter C. Newman June 25 1979

If Joe Clark defies the will of Allah, will the entire Islamic world cut out his tongue?

Editorial

Peter C. Newman

It's a fair indication of how blessed and innocent Canada really is that the first few weeks of Joe Clark's stewardship have been characterized by massive unconcern for the issues that will decide this country’s future. Not a word has been said about repatriating the Canadian economy. We have yet to hear even the hint of a federal response to René Lévesque’s recently reaffirmed intention of breaking the country in two. The business cycle wobbles on the edge of a downturn. None of this flutters the Canadian psyche.

Instead, the most contentious issue around is the Conservative leader’s pledge that he’ll move Canada’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. All over the country, especially in Toronto where the Jewish vote still means something, reporters for daily newspapers have been scouring the few Arab bars and restaurants. They are searching for the first available and articulate Arab or once-proud Lebanese rug merchant willing to go on record as saying that if we persist in our intended perfidy, defying the will of Allah, the entire Islamic world will descend upon us, cut out Joe Clark’s clumsy tongue, deprive us of profitable business contracts and oil supplies, reducing the land mass north of the 49th parallel to cold ashes.

Such threats have in turn prompted Flora MacDonald (the first executive director of the Committee for an Independent Canada to become secretary of state for external affairs) to respond that, well, maybe it wasn’t her government’s top priority anyway, and even if she doesn’t look Jewish (with her freckles, red hair and all) the Tories are damn well not going to let that natty John Roberts beat Ron Atkey in St. Paul’s riding the next time round. So, even if the embassy stays where it is, at least everyone’s going to make a lot of righteous noise about it.

In fact, Joe Clark’s instincts are dead right. The entire Israeli government (except its defence ministry) operates out of Jerusalem, which is the county’s officially designated capital. Thirteen of the 49 countries that exercise diplomatic relations with the Jewish state occupy embassies in Jerusalem, because that is where nearly all diplomatic business is transacted. Even those ambassadors who live in Tel Aviv spend most of their time in the Holy City. ,3 H -t

The American example might be worth following. As well as its ceremonial embassy in Tel Aviv, the U.S. state department operates a large consulate in the western sector of Jerusalem, whose chief-of-mission reports directly to Washington.

Location of the Canadian embassy is hardly vital to our national interest. But Joe Clark’s pledge is one of those issues of principle that test a politician’s fibre. If he follows the usual kind of Canadian compromise he will offend those who voted for him and disillusion those who might have—and the Canadian embassy will probably end up in Haifa.