MONTREAL- What the Hell is happening here?
Here, in a city previously known for arts and cuisine and a decided European flair, things have gone from bad to worse.
• A Montreal Jewish school for boys has been shot up twice.
• Another Montreal Jewish school, for children as young as grade one, has been also hit with bullets.
• A Molotov cocktail was thrown at a Montreal synagogue.
• A Montreal Jewish community centre was firebombed.
• Another Montreal-area Jewish community centre – and another synagogue – were firebombed.
• A Montreal Muslim cleric spoke at an anti-Israel rally and called for God to kill Jews “and spare none of them.”
• Scores of Montreal Jewish businesses have been targeted for boycotts, threats and graffiti- including Nazi swastikas.
In none of the most-serious cases, all crimes, has an arrest been made. And Jews who spoke to Postmedia reporters declined to give their names – or report to police other anti-Semitic crimes – because they feared retribution.
That is Montreal since October 7. This city has experienced more hate crimes against Jews than any other North American city. No other city seems to have it as bad.
What the Hell is happening here? Why is it happening in Montreal, of all places?
“The reason that Montreal is the only city in North America that has had multiple violent targeted attacks against Jewish institutions and people – from gunshots to Molotov cocktails – is because there is no condemnation of jihadist behavior taking place on the streets of Montreal. None. We need a political voice to say: enough!
“But we don’t have it.”
Beryl Wajsman, the articulate and passionate editor of Montreal’s award-winning newspaper, The Suburban, pauses. He looks more angry than sad.
“That’s the reason Montreal’s pro-Hamas crowd feels they have a license to do what they’re doing. There’s a lack of political will here. We have not heard the right words from our mayor. Nor will we.”
Montreal’s mayor is Valerie Plante.
Wajsman says Plante is much more preoccupied with the greening the city and “the war on the car” then she is with the safety of the Montreal’s Jews. That has sent a message to Montreal’s pro-Hamas fanatics, he says: “They know they’re not going to be taken in by the police. They know they can trespass, and block traffic, and more.”
And they’re paid to do so, he says. Pro-Hamas protestors can get up to $50 for each protest they attend, he adds, and they’ve divided the city up into grids, with leaders responsible for each grid. Most of the protestors, Wajsman says, are non-residents and students from Arab countries.
In France, Germany, Austria and other European countries, Wajsman says, anyone who now promotes anti-Semitic messages – whether it be “intifada” or “from the river to the sea” – is to be swiftly deported. “Radical deportation,” he calls it, and he says it will work here, too.
Another writer and political observer shakes his head and speaks in hushed tones. Unlike Beryl Wajsman, whose courage is legendary around here, this man is more cautious. He has children, he says, and the police have warned him that he can become a target of pro-Hamas violence – even for displaying an Israeli flag.
“Things aren’t balanced, here,” says this man, in accented English. “People expect Israel to fight with two hands tied behind its back. But they have a right to self-defence.”
He looks away. “I’m afraid,” he finally says. “What kind of a society are we creating, here?”
Another longtime Quebecois and Montrealer, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, agrees. She also asks that her name not be used, for fear of retribution. “The barbaric massacre of October 7 literally paralyzed me with shock, horror and fear for a number of weeks. It still consumes my thoughts and drowns me in anxiety.”
Growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors, she says, she was not as surprised to see anti-Semitism manifest itself in the city where she lives. But for many other Montreal Jews, she says, it has been a shock. “Recent events in our city have been a long-overdue wake up call,” she says. “I’m just thankful my parents aren’t around to relive it.”
So, what must be done? How can Montreal be rid of the vile Jew hatred that has infected it for weeks? How can it get it back to what it was?
Beryl Wajsman considers, then speaks.
“The other side want Islamic radicalization to become seen as normal. But Canadians will never accept that,” he says.
“We will never surrender our country.”