Quebec legislature denounces violence against Jews

Pro-Palestinian protests in Montreal, May 16, 2021 (Credit: Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs)

The National Assembly unanimously passed a motion on May 26 denouncing violence and intimidation against Jewish Quebecers and calling for a “healthy and democratic debate” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The motion was presented by Liberal MNA David Birnbaum jointly with Environment Minister Benoit Charette, who is responsible for combating racism, along with Méganne Perry Mélançon of the Parti Québécois, Andrès Fontecilla of Québec Solidaire and the independents Caroline Fournier, Harold LeBel, and Guy Ouellette.

The motion states that the legislature “denounces firmly threats, violence and aggression towards Quebecers of the Jewish faith which have increased in the last weeks” and “reaffirms that in a free and democratic society everyone can demonstrate and express an opinion in respect, security and dignity.”

It concludes that “at all times violence against anyone is intolerable.”

The Jewish community has reported a number of anti-Semitic incidents since the conflict between Israel and Hamas began, the most egregious occurring on May 16 when participants in a pro-Israel rally downtown were aggressively countered by Palestinian supporters who chased them, throwing rocks and damaging cars.

The next day, two men aged 19 and 20 were arrested while driving through Côte St. Luc yelling anti-Semitic taunts. They were charged with uttering threats and inciting hate, and released on the condition they not go to Côte St. Luc or possess a cell phone before their trial.

Numerous threatening and hostile social media posts have also been documented.

Community leaders welcomed the motion. In a statement, Eta Yudin, Quebec vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, “Today our elected officials have sent a strong message to all Quebecers that anti-Semitism has no place in Quebec society. While there is still much work to be done, today’s motion is a step in the right direction and demonstrates that our elected officials understand the gravity of the threat and will not allow it to fester.”

Federation CJA chief executive officer Yair Szlak commented, “This unanimous condemnation is unprecedented and sends a strong message that anti-Semitism has no place in Quebec society…It is important to acknowledge that our elected officials have recognized the seriousness of the threats that we continue to face on a daily basis.”

In the House of Commons on May 25, Bloc Québécois MP Stéphane Bergeron said his party “condemn(s) the anti-Semitic remarks and violence of the last few days, in particular in Montreal on May 16. These outbursts against people of the Jewish faith must stop. They inherently undermine the Palestinian cause. The BQ fully supports the creation of a Palestinian state, but we will never condone hate and violence.”

He also said that for a two-state solution to be possible Israel must “stop colonizing Palestinian territories once and for all.”

At the municipal level, Westmount Mayor Christina Smith appealed in writing to Montreal police to take into account the concerns of her city’s residents in deciding whether to grant future permits for demonstrations outside the Israeli consulate.

Smith said many citizens feel unsafe as a result of the demonstrations that have been held outside Westmount Square, the office tower that houses the consulate.

Thousands massed there on May 15 and, a week later, a much smaller crowd of about 400 returned. The latter was declared illegal and dispersed after it became disorderly and projectiles were aimed at police. One arrest was made.

“There is no place in our city for the anti-Semitism and rise in racist acts that we have witnessed,” Smith said.

The Lord Reading Law Society, an association of Jewish jurists founded in 1948, affirmed its “unwavering solidarity” with Israel and condemned anti-Semitism.

“We strongly support Israel’s fundamental right and its legal and moral obligation to protect its citizens from indiscriminate rocket attacks perpetrated by terrorist organizations such as Hamas, as would any other sovereign nation, in conformity with international law.”

The association also contends that, “under the guise of ‘pro-Palestinian’ protests, Jews in Montreal and around the globe are being targeted and attacked simply because they are Jews. These vicious and gratuitous assaults do not advance the cause of peace in the region. Rather, they represent pure manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

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