MONTREAL — Police removed about 15 protesters against Israel from inside the Federation CJA building in Montreal the afternoon of Aug. 7, but not before they managed to hang a banner over the lobby reading: “Massacre à Gaza: CIJA is complicit.”
The protesters, who identified themselves as Jews, left Cummings House without resistance and continued to hand out flyers on the sidewalk outside and sang Yiddish songs, spokesperson David Zinman told The CJN.
The federation, whose advocacy arm is the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), condemned the demonstration as “an act of intimidation by anti-Israel extremists.”
The federation and CIJA say the protesters attempted to “spread misinformation about the Jewish community of Montreal and unfounded allegations about Israel [including a charge of ethnic cleansing], so as to incite hatred against the Jews of Quebec.”
Zinman said the protesters all have strong ties to the Jewish community, and they or the families use the services of federation agencies. Their flyers, he said, condemned anti-Semitism.
“We wanted to talk, not intimidate anyone,” said Zinman. “We had to take this action because there is no space in the community for those who disagree [with the Gaza conflict] to talk about this. There a diversity of opinion in the community; CIJA does not represent everyone.”
He said if any intimidation occurred, it came from CIJA representatives.
In its statement, the federation said, “The group’s argument that anti-Zionism should not be conflated with anti-Semitism is misguided at best, as they have clearly aligned themselves with those pro-Palestinian militants in Montreal looking to establish a similar climate of hate and violence here in Montreal [as exists in Europe]…
“The group’s mission was not to engage in dialogue or frank discussions, but rather to disrupt and create a scene.”
The federation said it respects the right of every Quebecer to express opposition to the policies or actions of the Israeli government, but “We will not…offer a platform to those – Jews or non-Jews –who deny the right of Israel to exist as a free, democratic and Jewish state.”
In their press release, the protesters say they “support a heterogeneity of Jewishness and the reclamation of our histories from Zionism’s whitewashing” and reject “ethnocratic nation-states.”
The incident has raised questions about security at Cummings House, which houses the federation and its agencies. The federation says it will continue to implement measures to ensure the security of the community’s institutions.”