Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Montreal Jewish School Firebombed

Berel Weiss, director of the Toldos Yakov Yosef of Skver
Yeshiva, inspects the damage to the school

A masked young man threw a molotov cocktail into the vestibule of a Hasidic boys' school in Outremont, on Saturday morning. A group of kids had left the building shortly before the attack
took place, so that no one was injured, thank God. The damages are estimated at more than $100,000. Police have been hesitant to call the attack a hate crime until now; they are waiting for more evidence. In April 2004, the United Talmud Torahs School in Montreal, not far from our parents' apartment, was burnt to the ground. Sleiman El-Merhebi, the teenage perpetrator of that attack, was released from prison in May 2005, after serving two thirds of a 40-month sentence for arson. His mother, Rouba El-Merhebi Faud, is about to go on trial on charges of being an accessory to the crime after the fact (see National Post for coverage) .

Montreal is home to one of Canada's largest Jewish communities, which includes a significant Hasidic segment. The response of the provincial government so far has been somewhat tepid. Quebec minister of immigration and cultural communities, Lise Theriault, said that the attack “should be treated as an isolated incident for the moment." Government officials were wary of calling it a hate crime, until further progress is made in the investigation; on Tuesday, police said that they had no new clues since the attack took place. Theriault explained that “nobody has found a note, there was no graffiti either.” She did add that “The act that was committed was reprehensible. The person who did it cannot go unpunished.... There’s no place for something like this in Quebec." She also said something that left a strange taste in my mouth : “It’s very unfortunate.... we know that the Jewish community, notably, is well-integrated” (Montreal Gazette).

Actually, the victims of this attack are not "well-integrated" - certainly not by the standards of most Quebecois. How exactly is that relevant? Yes, the Jewish community as a whole is well-integrated; but if it weren't, would the attack have been any less unfortunate? I am hoping she was simply misquoted or said this without thinking.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, who serves on Montreal's Jewish community security council, said it is legimate

to wonder whether or not the gathering of 15,000 Quebecers under the flag of Hezbollah, unfortunately further legitimized by the presence of politicians, whether that creates an atmosphere where fanatics draw the conclusion that violence against Jews is somehow acceptable (National Post).

Rabbi Poupko was referring to a march held earlier this summer, during Israel's campaign against Hizbullah. The protest drew several prominent politicians, including Gilles Duceppe, the leader of the separatist Bloc Québécois Party. Anyone who listens to French-language broadcasts in the province of Quebec or reads the newspapers here, knows that this is not the friendliest of places to Jews.

In other news, MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the (now, former) Liberal associate foreign affairs critic, recently resigned after comments he made on a fact-finding mission to southern Lebanon. On his trip, organized by National Council on Canada-Arab Relations (NCCAR), he allegedly "called Israel a terrorist state and suggested Hezbollah be removed as a banned terrorist organization"; Wrzesnewskyj later denied making the latter of these statements (Canadian Jewish News).

1 comment:

Matityahu said...

Things build up gradually...
Bombings of Jewish institutions - such as this ultraorthodox school in Outremont/Montréal, which is certainly not a military target - does not prove widespread antisemitism in Canada or Québec, but many people seem to become tolerant to anti-Jewish/anti-Isareli slander and inappropriate rhetoric. The recent discussion on the (religious) Jewish school system in Québec is an example, discussions on Kashrut labels or the Eruv are others. In this climate, events in the Middle East, such as the Hizbolla war, easily boil over into blaming Jewish citizens of Québec for the military strategy of Israel or the suffering of Lebanese civilians, not only in private conversations, but also in (mainly French-language) official radio programs.

The URL below gives insight into rising levels of anti-semitic talk and action in Britain. Is it already becoming symptomatic for our western societies ?