newsAntisemitism

‘Globalized intifada’: Shootings, a firebombing and vandalism rock Montreal

"This is in fact the actualization of a globalized intifada through violence,” said the president of Federation CJA of the sharp spike in antisemitism since Oct. 7.

Swastikas on the front doors and adjacent brick facade of the Bagg Street Shul in Montreal, Canada, March 2023. Source: Twitter/Michal Cotler-Wunsch.
Swastikas on the front doors and adjacent brick facade of the Bagg Street Shul in Montreal, Canada, March 2023. Source: Twitter/Michal Cotler-Wunsch.

Shootings, a firebombing and vandalism have struck the Jewish community in Montreal amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror organization.

“Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 7, the police reported 79 hate crimes in Montreal against the Jews. In the entire year before, the number was under 40,” Yair Szlak, president and chief executive officer of Federation CJA, the central philanthropic, planning and coordinating body of services for the local Jewish community, told JNS.

Israel’s Consul General in Montreal Paul Hirschson confirmed the sharp rise in antisemitic events, telling JNS it is in fact “more than the 70-plus incidents listed by the police. A lot of it doesn’t even get reported.”

Montreal police told JNS that an additional 25 antisemitic instances of Jew-hatred were recorded between Nov. 7 and Nov. 14, bringing the total number of incidents in the city since Oct. 7 to more than 100, including 63 hate crimes.

The Module des Crimes et Incidents Haineux (MICH), a specialized unit, is in charge of investigating the crimes, including shots fired last week at two Jewish schools, Talmud Torah and Yeshiva Gedola of Montreal, the latter of which was hit again early Sunday. 

Firebombs were thrown at a Jewish community center and a synagogue in Dollard-des-Ormeaux earlier this month, and a violent clash erupted between pro-Hamas and pro-Israel groups at Concordia University, during which University of Montreal teacher Yannis Arab called a Jewish student a “sharmouta” [whore in Arabic] and told her to go back to Poland, where the Nazis murdered millions of Jews in death camps during WWII.

Todd, 43, who asked not to disclose his last name, teaches at Yeshiva Gedola of Montreal.

“There has been a strong police presence at the school since the incidents took place. The mayor of Montreal, Valerie Plante, was around and showed her full support to the community,” he told JNS.

Todd confirmed the sense of insecurity and fear in and around Jewish institutions in Montreal. 

“I am more alert when I enter school premises. It’s hard not to be with everything that’s happened over the past few months,” he said.

According to Federation CJA’s Szlak, the antisemitic wave of violence “has gone beyond just chants like ‘From the River to the Sea,'” a rallying cry for the establishment of a Palestinian state between the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River, and thus the annihilation of Israel.

“This is in fact the actualization of a globalized intifada [Palestinian terror war] through violence in the streets of Montreal,” said Szlak.

Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, with more than 90,000 Jews in Montreal, roughly a third the size of the country’s largest community in Toronto. 

There is also a significant Arab population originating from countries like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon and Syria, partially because Quebec is predominantly francophone and those Middle East and North African countries were previously colonized by France.

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly rebuked his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau for calling on Israel to stop “this killing of women, of children, of babies” in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Trudeau’s comments came days after French President Emmanuel Macron demanded Israel stop killing civilians, an assertion Netanyahu similarly labeled as “a serious mistake, factually and morally.”

“There is a confusion between opposition to Israel and hatred for the Jews,” said Israeli Consul Hirschson. “Everyone knows Israel is the Jewish state and so considers all Jews as Israelis and all Israelis as Jews. There is no longer any distinction,” he explained. 

Hirschson linked the wave of violence in Montreal to the conflict against Hamas, which shows no signs of abating.

“The messaging of the anti-Israel protesters has changed. It started as a celebration of the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, where Jews were killed and that was a good thing,” he said, adding: “Now that Hamas is being crushed, supporters are asking for a ceasefire, which would allow the terror organization to regroup, and are lashing out through violent attacks.”

On campus, the anti-Israel sentiment has exploded into public expression of support for Hamas. 

Henry Topas, Quebec Regional Director for B’nai Brith Canada, Canada’s oldest independent Jewish rights organization, told JNS “there is a frontline in universities in Canada and the United States.” 

B’nai Brith is currently supporting the efforts of a Jewish student who is suing McGill University over its failure to sanction the student group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), which they say regularly engages in incitement.

“We are basically under the impression that ‘wokeism’ in society and on campus has removed any degree of control that the world used to have. There is no inhibition to telling lies, falsehoods or expressing pure Jew-hatred,” said Topas.

Hirschson said that police “unfortunately do not have the experience or the resources to address this extreme violence” against the Jewish community.

In this respect, Topas noted that authorities have not yet stopped the activities of pro-Hamas Imam Adil Charkaoui, who “preaches the killing of all Jews at every rally.”

While Federation CJA has increased the security presence at all institutions in the Montreal Jewish community, Szlack explained that people remain “shaken” and “on edge.”

“We’ve called on police to provide armed security near every school and synagogue in the community as Jewish institutions must feel safe,” he said.

Federation CJA has launched a petition to be granted the ability to hire armed off-duty police officers, a practice allowed everywhere in Canada outside of Quebec.

“We’re still waiting for an answer,” said Szlack.

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