Jews are a people who have faced a tremendous amount of adversity since their inception. Forced displacement, conversion, assimilation, enslavement, and mass slaughter, the Jews have prospered through it all. From Babylonian, Roman, Ottoman, British, and Jordanian ruling in Israel, they have overcome inquisitions, pogroms, a Holocaust, but to this day continue to suffer from blood libel and random acts of despicable violence. This happens, even in a progressive first world modern city like Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where antisemitic incidents have increased for a second year, according to reports by B’nai Brith.
A deep history in Quebec
The Jewish people have a sophisticated history, deeply embedded in the Quebec political, cultural, and social paradigm.
The Jews first arrived in Quebec in the 1760’s settling in three larger cities: Trois Rivieres, Quebec City, and Old Montreal. As a result of Jewish commitment to the city, the first synagogue was established in 1768 in Montreal. This would make them the first non-Christian and non-aboriginal community in Quebec. The first Jew elected to office in the British Empire was in 1807. In 1832, the legislature of Lower Canada introduced the Act to Grant Equal Rights and Privileges to Persons of the Jewish Religion. This would mean that, throughout the British Empire’s long and historical rule, Quebec became the first place where Jews would acquire equal rights. So, where did it all go wrong?
Jews in Quebec and Canada as a whole have been subject to discrimination throughout the centuries of living there. The community was rather isolationist and managed to thrive and succeed independently, all while remaining contributive and loyal tax-paying members of a greater North American society. Today, approximately 93,000 Jews live in Quebec.
474 attacks were reported in the 2016-17 year. Increases in antisemitic vandalism to 53 instances as well as harassment, to 421 reports, were documented as well.
Among other reports were verbal slurs, hate propaganda, and, incitement. The numbers do not lie. B’nai Brith is a trusted Jewish organization tasked with resolving these kinds of issues. None of these incidents are conducive towards a positive co-existence in a pluralist democracy.
Let’s cut the semantics here. Whether you choose to believe it or not. Deny all you want; antisemitism is on the rise in Canada and as a result, Jews suffer disproportionately.
Major incidents in 2018
Well, what does as per usual mean? One incident of such antisemitic aggressions this year was at a gas station in Montreal. An Arab pump attendant allegedly insulted a Jewish woman with vulgarities in Arabic. The woman posted her anecdote to her Facebook page where she was showered in support by the broader Montreal community. The post was promptly deleted.
The obscenities made to the woman were immediately addressed by the Tunisian gas station owner. A similar incident occurred in 2014, at the very same gas station where two Orthodox men were allegedly recipients of an antisemitic exchange. The gas station owner was not the same at the time but this still occurred at the very same location.
The rise of the far-right
Two months after 2018’s gas station attack, Montreal police found a man who waved a Nazi flag as not guilty. The authority, in this case, Inspecteur Ian Lafreniere, mentioned that holding the flag was not a criminal act, however, using it in the name of incitement might be a very different story.
This video, by CTV News, should offer a decent visual into Montreal’s antisemitic movement:
Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, claimed that this was to send a message of provocation. Are his words really reliable though? Farber does have a history of associating himself with rather radical figures who have previously incited violence against Jews.
Even though this is not the last attack in 2018, an arson attack occurred at a Kosher pizza shop, Pizza Pita, in Montreal’s Cote-des-Neiges neighborhood. Disturbingly, a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the drive-through window.
Pizza Pita remained open and, fortunately, there was no major damage. Some would claim that this might not actually be an antisemitic incident due to the circumstances of a pizza shop across the street becoming the target of an arson attack just a month prior. The case may very well be that the other shop was only targeted because the attackers thought they were hitting the Kosher shop.
Jews will forever remain a minority in the world, no matter where they go. In Israel, they are constantly harassed, incessantly taunted, and the same can be said for their Diaspora counterparts. No matter how hard they endeavor to please the broader community they have assimilated into, by means of contributions in the development of medical institutions to the city, religious infrastructures, judges, lawyers, doctors, teachers, or even journalists, Jews will eternally be plagued from what lies in the ignorance of anti-Jewish teachings.