A brazen Israeli flag burning outside a Jewish school has shocked the Montreal community

Israeli flag burning
Screenshot from a video showing a teenager stealing Israeli flags from outside a Montreal area school and later showing the flags burning. Montreal police have arrested a 16-year old youth who is facing charges of mischief, theft and arson, and the Montreal police's Hate Crimes Unit is looking for more suspects. (Instagram)

Montreal Police announced they have arrested a 16-year-old suspect in relation to the removal and burning of Israeli flags that were hanging outside a Jewish day school on April 26, Yom ha-Atzmaut. Police had said the incident was being investigated as a hate crime.

One young man was seen clearly in a 34-second online video taking down at least five large flags from the fence around the elementary Hebrew Foundation School in Dollard des Ormeaux on Montreal’s West Island. He then stacks them and sets them on fire off-site.

The incident occurred around 3:30 p.m., after the students had left for the day.

Hebrew Foundation interim executive director Glenn Eisenberg issued the statement: “Our students’ security and wellbeing are of utmost importance to us. Federation CJA’s Community Security Network (CSN) has been invaluable during this time, guiding us and providing support to our administration and community, who are shaken by this act of overt Jew-hate.

“We are grateful for the quick response of the (Montreal police), who are taking this incident very seriously and investigating it as a hate crime. There is no doubt that this was motivated by antisemitism and that the Jewish community was specifically targeted.”

The man taking down the flags, whose face is visible, is wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress, and a black Bench shirt. An Arabic song plays over video with an English text superimposed that includes “I am not afraid of yahudis (Jews) and I don’t care for any promises.”

The posting attracted the attention of the U.S.-based online hate monitoring organization StopAntisemitism.

This happened the same day as thousands of members of the Jewish and other communities celebrated the 75th anniversary of the State of Israel with a noontime march through downtown streets culminating with a party in Place du Canada. The event proceeded without any trouble.

In a statement, Federation CJA said it was “horrified” by the incident at the school.

Sameer Zuberi, the Liberal MP for Pierrefonds-Dollard, immediately tweeted that the online images are “shocking and abhorrent,” and he included two screenshots from the posting.

“Hate, intolerance and antisemitism have absolutely no place in our community or country. Everyone must be and feel safe in Canada.”

The federation said police and Dollard’s own security force would be increasing their presence around the school today. In addition, numerous volunteers from the federation’s CSN were to be deployed around Jewish institutions across the city.

“Rising antisemitism across the globe is punctuated by incidents of blatant hatred such as these, reminding the Jewish community of the need for Israel, the world’s only Jewish country, and why it remains as relevant today as it was following thousands of years of persecution, culminating in the Nazi genocide of more than six million Jews in the Holocaust,” stated Eta Yudin, Quebec vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the federation’s advocacy arm.

“This incident is a sad reminder that youth are being radicalized so young and underscores the need for the Jewish lived experience, antisemitism, and Holocaust education to be included in anti-hate and anti-racism initiatives in schools. Education is one of the most important tools in the fight against hate.”

Federation president and chief executive officer Yair Szlak added, “We will continue to stand up to hatred. Those who seek to intimidate us with hate and threats of violence will not succeed. Our community will continue to stand proud and strong in the fight against antisemitism and hate.”

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Meanwhile in Toronto, a group of Palestinian protesters demonstrated at a plaza with numerous kosher shops in Thornhill, Ont.  

“These incidents in Montreal and Toronto are clear examples of when anti-Zionism equates to antisemitism,” said Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre CEO Michael Levitt. “The targeting of Jewish schools and businesses and destroying the Israeli flag send a hateful message to Canada’s Jews, seeking to vilify them for their support of the world’s one and only Jewish State. The attack on the Jewish school is an alarming antisemitic act of property damage and must be investigated by police.”

In Montreal, police are seeking the public’s help in identifying the perpetrators. Anyone with information is asked to call 514-280-0104 or 514-393-1133.

This story has been updated to include information that a suspect has been arrested in connection with this event.