Long-Term Aid to the Middle East
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Oct 1990, p. 84-94
Rothschild, Edmund de, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Rotary Club of Toronto.
An outline of a Marshall-type plan for the poorer countries in the Middle East and suggestion that via the World Bank and through AID sums of money might be made available to look at potential developments which would provide employment to thousands of persons. A peace plan to go in conjunction with a future political settlement. Submitted to the speaker's Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher. The address addresses areas of concern in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Israel and the Gaza Strip. Topics addressed include providing power, housing, medical aid, fishing, sewage. The role of CARE in planning and thinking out how to put together the necessary aid. Canada's role through CIDA.
Date of Original
19 Oct 1990
Language of Item
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Full Text
Edmund de Rothschild, Past Chairman, N.M. Rothschild & Sons Ltd; Chairman, CARE Britain Corporate Council
Chairman: Harold Roberts President


Early last summer Nona McDonald called me to see if I was interested in inviting Edmund de Rothschild to speak at a meeting of The Empire Club. It very quickly developed that Mr. de Rothschild would be in Toronto on a Friday and there was also a strong desire of the Rotary Club of Toronto to have him address their members. Since Friday is the regular meeting day of the Rotary and since they have been strong supporters of CARE, it became apparent that Rotary was the senior partner in this joint venture. They looked after everything and all The Empire Club had to do was notify our members of this special meeting and it fell to me to introduce our speaker.

All well and good. But I soon discovered that it was not an easy task. Do you have any idea how many Rothschilds there are?

I started with Who's Who 1989, and quickly found a reference to Edmund de Rothschild, one and a half inch rectangle chock-a-block with abbreviations and letters, that as a theologian I found quite confusing. There were some things there that I will come back to, but next I turned to Encyclopedia Americana. After all everyone knows the de Rothschild name. Europe, Old Family, Old Money. The encyclopedia told me it all started with Mayer Anselm Rothschild who was born in Frankfurt-on-the-Main in 1743. He was of Jewish parentage and was destined for the rabbinical studies, but found commercial pursuits more to his liking, and engaged in trading, afterward entering a banking house in Hanover. He was successful. He had five sons and they each established banks in different countries centred in Frankfurt, Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris. And they prospered. Edmund who comes to us today, comes from, I believe, the London branch, where he is a director of N.M. Rothschild and Sons.

I must admit I felt somewhat embarrassed about having difficulty finding information on our guest today, until I was sent a few articles and papers by a local financial newspaper in which I found this.

"The English house, being English, makes a point of being pale. While Parisians personify the glamorous athletic "haut monde," the London branch seems to feel that perhaps that sort of thing would not quite do for them. Even their chromosomes appear a great deal more tradition minded. The Parisian Rothschilds look as slender and dashing as any drawing-room comedy marquies; but the Londoners tend to be a stoutish Savile-Row-tailored, Cambridge-accented version of the German rabbi old Mayer wanted to become."

In spite of this picture of quiet civility, our guest does have a distinguished career. He served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War and was wounded in action. He has been an active supporter of veteran Associations ever since.

Mr. Rothschild did serve in the family business of N.M. Rothschild and Son and had close ties to Canada in the Maritimes. He was Deputy Chairman of British Newfoundland Corp. Ltd. and Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. Ltd. and helped fund that mega power project.

He is Vice-President of the Council of Christians and Jews. His interests include gardening, fishing, shooting, cine-photography and hunting butterflies.

On December 2, 1988, Mr. Rothschild agreed to chair the British Corporate Council of CARE International. It is in this capacity that he comes to us today, and we welcome him and invite him to speak to us now.

Edmund de Rothschild:

"Inescapably, hesitatingly, terrible like fate the great task approaches; how should the earth as a whole be administered? To what end should man--no longer a people or race--be raised and bred?" This statement of Nietzsche's of the last century is so apt today.

However, modem man is technically competent to harness almost limitless energy and to provide food and shelter for the five and a half to six billion people now estimated to be living on our planet. And this could rise to over seven billion by the year 2000 unless the toll of AIDS, war and natural calamities such as earthquakes or greenhouse effects lessen these figures.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentleman of the Empire and Rotary Clubs of Toronto I am deeply honoured to be invited to speak to you today under the auspices also of CARE Canada about which I will say a few words later on.

You have asked me to talk on Europe. Winston Churchill always said that from 1940 to 1945 he was one of the bearers of the Cross of Lorraine. One day when he was asked about planning his funeral he said "And will mon General be there?" The reply was "Yes, if he is still alive." So Churchill asked "Pray, from which railway station will my body be taken to Blenheim Palace (the house where he was bom)?" The reply was "Paddington Station," to which Churchill said "No, it will go from Waterloo Station." And it did, and mon General was there.

It was General Charles de Gaulle, who said, and I quote "Europe, the mother of modern civilization, must establish herself all the way from the Atlantic to the Urals and live in a state of harmony and cooperation with a view to developing her immense resources, and so to play, together with her daughters in Canada and the United States, her worthy role in relation to the billion or more people who so badly need her help."

And what a change we have seen in Europe. It was a strange and unconnected coincidence that in 1789 Louis XVI, the King of France, escaping from the revolution, put his head out of the postillion in which he was travelling at an obscure frontier post, was recognized and sent to his death by the guillotine. Two hundred years later in 1989, Ceausescu of Romania left his palace in a helicopter, transferred to an armoured car, then to an ordinary vehicle which was stopped at a barricade across a minor road. He was recognised and brought back to his death. As European events unfold we face a rise in national movements, as in 1848, Magyars versus Romanians, Czechs versus Slovaks. In Russia, always known as a colossus with feet of clay, there are Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians versus Russia, Azerbaijanis versus Armenians and so on. The euphoria of earlier this year of a united Germany is dissipating and for two Germanies to unite poses great and traumatic problems. But the Germans are a disciplined people and a united Germany could well dominate the European economy, without, however, the North Sea oil.

Bankers are normally conservative people. So to try and foretell whether Britain is right to join the European monetary fund or go for something else is far into the realms of hypothesis. Perhaps I could answer my thoughts on this in the following manner. There is an amusing strip cartoon in the International Herald Tribune featuring Blondie. In one of them Blondie asked Dagwood, her husband, "What makes the stock market go up and down?" Dagwood replied, "It is simple--inflationary pressures and fiscal instability, also international imbalance and political tension." To which profound words Blondie replied, "As long as you don't know dear, why don't you just say so." I feel that nearly all of us must feel the same as Blondie about the future of any economic policy.

To turn to your great country--I know you are having some constitutional problems, but I have the same faith in Canada as did my bank's first correspondent who, in 1835, writing to my great-great-grandfather from Yorktown, Upper Canada, wrote "Moreover Canada presents the spectacle of an institution free from the moss and rust of ages with a revenue annually increasing and property rapidly advancing." This is still the same today. And so, my bank, N.M. Rothschild & Sons Limited, still has a close involvement in your great country with an office and representative here in Toronto under Mr. Garfield Emerson, Q.C. and a representative in British Columbia, Mr. Dan Pekarsky and also a small entity in Prince Edward Island.

Many of you here today may well know of my involvement in Canada with Brinco and its development of the Churchill Falls in Labrador. This was indeed a challenge and it's brought into my life many of the finest people I have ever met and worked with, some of whom I am delighted to see here today.

But I want to talk about another serious and very dangerous crisis in the Middle East. All my life I have been involved with refugees. I was fortunate to have survived three campaigns during World War II and I witnessed some of the terrible scenes in occupied Europe and Germany. I became treasurer of the British sponsored World Refugee Year and ever since have been trying to help where possible. So, in 1967 after the Six Day War, I wrote a letter to the Times outlining a plan whereby 17,000 Arab refugee families could be resettled in reasonable homes south of the Gaza Strip at El Arish. This was taken up with a whole supportive page of the Times newspaper. It took me to see Vice President Humphrey, General Eisenhauer and many eminent people including both Mr. George Woods and Mr. Robert McNamara, Presidents of the World Bank. The then British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, wrote me a six page letter having had his civil servants go into the plan in great depth. His key sentence was "On the other hand, if an overall international scheme for the economic development of the whole area could be elaborated, Her Majesty's Government would certainly wish to consider participation in projects which could lead to the provision of water to assist the resettlement of refugees." Sadly, the three negatives of the Arab League at the Khartoum Conference inspired by Nasser stopped the furthering of this project.

On the 13th of September of this year, I wrote to our Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher, outlining a forward concept trying to think positively and putting in simplest and barest outline a simultaneous proposal for any peace plan to go in conjunction with the future of the poorer countries in the Middle East. I have had acknowledgment that the plan makes sense but the thinking has been that a political settlement should come first. In my letter to the Prime Minister I said, "But--Prime Minister--I firmly believe that such a concept put forward as a thoughtful brief for long-term aid to the countries concerned should not be ignored. If any political settlement should by any chance be reached and no such plan thought out a hiatus would occur in which there would be little hope of what could be done to improve the living conditions of the countries in the region." Her reply was indeed positive and suggested that I should continue to keep the Foreign and Commonwealth Office briefed. In a second letter I suggested that ex-President Carter and ex-Prime Minister Trudeau should be involved to which she has replied in a letter again positively.

If I may, I would like to outline these and shorten the aide memoir I put forward concerning the Marshall-type plan for the poorer countries in the Middle East and suggest that via the World Bank and through AID sums of money might be made available to look at potential developments which would provide employment to thousands of persons.

To start with:

1. Egypt

Assessment of the High Aswan Dam and the silting up of the Nile causing lack of power and fertility in the Nile Delta. The undertaking of the Qatarra depression plan to provide an area for the development in this region by the cutting of a canal from the Mediterranean to the depression using pen-stocks to provide power to desalt the plentiful brackish water in the aquifer beneath the depression and provide power and irrigation for a sizable area.

There is a personal story attached to this.

In 1968 I attended a Water for Peace conference given by President Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington and went as an observer attached to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. I was in fact the lowest form of animal life at the conference. However, a mis-statement was made by Secretary of State Udal when in his opening remarks, he said "By the end of the conference we should have desalted water at 22/25 cents per thousand U.S. gallons and power at 3.5 mils." I went up to Mr. Udal and said "How could you make such a mis-statement about power being 3.5 mils when you know that the cheapest power you can get is at 4.5 mils. at the Labrador border?" To which he replied "What is mil between friends?" and then seeing my badge he took me by the arm and said "Ah, it is only a matter of the rate of interest, isn't it?" All I could do was to burst out laughing and at a state reception later two burly men approached me and asked me to come outside for a moment. They said they would like me to be President Johnson's personal invitee through Secretary of State Udal to go down the Potomac River on the USS Sequoia with the heads of all the delegations the next evening. I said I was only the lowest form of animal life. Nevertheless I attended and was challenged by the Kuwaiti at the foot of the gangway. I let him know that I was one of Her Majesty's Government Trustees of the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. I sat next to the head of the Russian delegation, a warm hand put itself in mine being Prince Feisal of Saudi Arabia seeking 23,000 gallons of water over a certain period of time and finally meeting the Egyptian delegate who knew who I was and told me of his great scheme for the Qatarra Depression.

2 Jordan

Here one could pump water from the Red Sea over the mountain range and down via Penstocks to the Dead Sea by means of head reversible pumps. This would provide all the power necessary for heating, lighting and industry in Jordan which country also has considerable ground water for its needs. Incidentally, it is interesting to note the height of the Dead Sea at the time of Jesus Christ was double that of today.

3. Lebanon

Just the rebuilding of the damaged housing and the buildup of the country's infrastructure.

4. Syria

There is a large project in Turkey for damming up some of the head waters of the Euphrates and unless great care is exercised to allow the silt to go through the turbines, further large areas of Syria could well be turned into desert.

5. Sudan

This country is facing starvation and immense problems.

6. Israel

To increase the fresh water capacity for the Negev by desalting plants and to house the exodus of Russian Jewry to Israel itself.

7. Gaza Strip

Gaza's water source comes from an aquifer from the North formed by rain water. A separate source from that which feeds Israel. But there is insufficient water for irrigation, thus a large desalination plant is necessary.


The housing in the refugee camps and the attendant sewage problem, is of desperately low standards. It might be possible for each camp to be made into a municipality and given the status of a City under Arab administration with phased construction under UNWRA auspices.


The Gaza fishing limit is only 12 miles because of the difficulty of supervision for security and drug smuggling. The Bardawir Lagoon has reverted to Egypt and the Gazans are now precluded from fishing there. A dearth of fish exists mainly because the usual silt that used to come down the Nile from the Sudan has ceased piling up behind the high Aswan Dam. With UNDP assistance, Israel is building a complex consisting of an ice factory, fish market and cold storage depot and shops and plans are being considered for a marina on the south coast of the Shati camp and this needs considerable funding.


It could be possible to construct a sizable co-generation unit using sewage for generation of electricity.

Medical Plan

Nine hundred babies are born each month and increasing, and infant mortality figures show a drop from 140 per 1,000 to 32 per 1,000. But extra medical care and hospital facilities are needed.

It was General Marshall after World War II who suggested a plan for Europe and this saved us. This Marshall-type plan that I put forward could give work phased over at least five years though it does not solve the over-crowding problem because there exists the famous 'Pavlov rats syndrome' which is a hypothesis that the more crowding, the more belligerent inmates of an area thrive at the expense of the weaker persons.

To give the roughest guestimates of what sort of figures, this plan perhaps means the allocation of some $3 to 5 billion a year to these countries, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Sudan and the Gaza Strip and this could amount to $30 billion a year every year for five years. This is only peanuts compared to the weaponry that is being given to this area This would benefit the whole poorer area from the employment point of view and would raise the standard of living but, ladies and gentlemen, to be completely realistic, before such sums could even be contemplated research should be done with the necessary consulting engineers and the full knowledge of the countries concerned to see what sort of aid takes priority.

The chances of doing anything like this are remote but it seems so well worthwhile at least attempting to be constructive. Who would have thought that the impassable barrier, the Iron Curtain, could be torn down in the period of a year? It is forward planning and forward thinking, together with the knowledge of how to effect such aid that is necessary. And this is where the charity CARE comes into the picture.

CARE has been in the aid business for 45 years. Originally it was set up to send CARE parcels to people in starving Europe and Japan to help them recover from the aftermath of the Second World War. Since then it has built up a unique reputation for its practical and professional approach to relief and developments. There are 7,000 people in the field today. Today CARE Canada is a vital part of the CARE group throughout many countries in the free world. Your organization, like CARE Britain, with which I am closely involved, is a member of CARE International. Together the group is investing in the education, health, and productivity of two-thirds of the world's population in the underdeveloped countries, where it is hoped the standard of living can be raised utilizing their resources and preserving their environment. Your government, through CIDA, has contributed a great many millions of dollars to these countries and entrusted CARE Canada to be responsible for this aid. According to the amounts raised by the Canadian donors to CARE, CIDA gives $3 for every $1 raised for some projects and as much as $10 for every $1 for certain bilateral projects. We hope therefore that you will realize where dollars go and how, to enable CIDA to make these dollars go a long way and be worthwhile.

It is the Empire and Rotary Clubs of Canada who, under the auspices of CARE Canada, have organized today's gathering. CARE Canada is an entity that is unable to guarantee miracles, but only hold a commitment to maintain the responsibilities to preserve liberties, customs, rights and privileges for those whose well-being they are helping to promote.

We all face a most uncertain future. The whole scene throughout the world is cloudy--like seeing through a glass darkly. What will the '90s herald for the 21st century? Who knows. King George VI in the last broadcast before he died quoted Miss Minnie Louise Haskins:

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year; give me a light that I might tread safely into the unknown" and he replied, "Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God, that shall be better to you than light and safer than a known way."

Which perhaps can more easily be understood with a quotation from Teilhard de Chardin.

"Some day after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then, for the second time in the history of the world, Man will have discovered fire."

In these two quotations lies the future of us all bound up with what you in this great country, Canada, are striving for through CARE Canada. If I have put any fire into your bellies to support CARE it is through your donations that you can help in some way the work that is so vitally necessary for the improvement of the lives of so many people and furthering the cause of peace.

Thank you for listening to me.

The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by R. Blake Moore, President, The Rotary Club of Toronto.

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Long-Term Aid to the Middle East

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Rotary Club of Toronto.
An outline of a Marshall-type plan for the poorer countries in the Middle East and suggestion that via the World Bank and through AID sums of money might be made available to look at potential developments which would provide employment to thousands of persons. A peace plan to go in conjunction with a future political settlement. Submitted to the speaker's Prime Minister, Mrs. Thatcher. The address addresses areas of concern in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Israel and the Gaza Strip. Topics addressed include providing power, housing, medical aid, fishing, sewage. The role of CARE in planning and thinking out how to put together the necessary aid. Canada's role through CIDA.