How Quebec turned into a hotbed of antisemitism
Multiculturalism's failures on display
On Sunday night, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante stated the obvious: “At this moment, the Jewish community is under attack in Montreal.”
Bullets had been fired at two Jewish religious school doors in densely Jewish neighbourhoods last week (one school on two separate occasions), following attempted firebombings at a Jewish community centre and synagogue in the West Island. Jewish-owned businesses have been vandalized, and their owners targeted with hate on social media and in action.
A coffee-shop chain owner, whose shop menus were defaced with swastikas, is one of many Jewish entrepreneurs flagged on a boycott list Postmedia News reviewed, attesting to a disconcerting level of purposeful organization. Montreal’s 90,000 Jews were especially revulsed by a Nov. 8 Kristallnacht anniversary mobbing at Concordia University of an exhibit to honour the plight of the Israeli hostages in Gaza.
Rahim Mohamed cited Montreal in these pages as “an epicentre of anti-Jewish hatred.” He’s right, for a good historical reason. A statement after the school-door shootings by Premier François Legault offers a clue to what it is. Admirably vowing that “every effort will be made to find and punish the culprits,” Legault added, “Let us not import the hatred and violence that we see elsewhere in the world.”
What he should have said was “Let us no longer import the hatred and violence…”
The reality is that between 1970 and 2005, Quebec, which — unlike other provinces — controls its own immigration numbers and provenance, determined to import as many fluent French-speakers as possible. With minimal triaging, Quebec flung open its doors to former French colonies like Haiti and Vietnam, who have no axe to grind with Jews, but also to Islamically volatile North African and Middle Eastern countries, where extreme antisemitism is baked into the culture.
Montreal became home to the world’s largest Lebanese community outside of Beirut and the second-largest Moroccan and Algerian diasporas after Paris and Marseilles. Most of these immigrants are peaceful and apolitical. But a small minority — and that’s all it takes — are trouble makers.
“As in France itself,” wrote Drew University professor of Jewish Studies Allan Nadler in a 2011 Tablet article, “these immigrants have brought a deep, historically rooted contempt for European cosmopolitanism and heavy doses of antisemitism. Those apprehended by the Montreal police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for involvement in the dozen or so attacks on Jewish institutions in the city during the past five years — which included the fire-bombings of a synagogue and a Jewish day school — were all Quebeckers of North African descent.”
From the mid-1990s to 2005, about 20 Montrealers were involved in terrorist plots. Most famously, Algerian Ahmed Ressam — the “Millennium Bomber” — settled in Montreal after receiving Al Qaeda terror training in Afghanistan. Former Morocco-born Montrealer Abdellah Ouzghar, convicted in absentia of abetting terrorism in France, circulated here in virtually complete freedom for years before our sluggish judicial system finally endorsed his extradition to France in 2009. He reportedly returned to Canada after serving his sentence.
For an up-to-date example of imported trouble, we have well-known Morocco-Canadian imam Adil Charkouai who, at an Oct. 28 Montreal Free Palestine rally, called for the eradication of all “Zionist aggressors.” Many years before he received citizenship in 2014 and could easily have been deported, he was arrested on a security certificate, CSIS alleging he was a sleeping Al Qaeda agent, and represented a danger to Canada. Long legal story short, a Supreme Court judgment regarding security certificates — and having nothing to do with what seems to have been excellent evidence — luckily fell Charkouai’s way. He obtained Canadian citizenship, and is still purveying robustly Islamist antisemitism to his fan base.
Fabrice de Pierrebourg, Quebec’s leading journalist on terrorism, followed the trajectories of up to 30 hard-core jihadists for many years in the 1990s, making frequent trips to Lebanon and the North African countries from which most Montreal Islamists derive. In 2007 he published Montrealistan, an examination of the route to radicalization of young Muslim men in Montreal.
De Pierrebourg found the two main vectors were sermons in the mosque the recruit attended and the Internet chat rooms he surfed obsessively. Many of the recruits talked candidly to de Pierrebourg. They went, via Internet lures, from merely bored or socially awkward to radicalized within weeks.
It’s important to note that focusing on Islamist antisemitism isn’t to gainsay the extreme antisemitism on the academic left and their indoctrinated acolytes, whose hateful words and antics we have also witnessed in the aftermath of Oct 7. But, while lefties are happy to participate in the rallies and the marches, it is international Islamist groups that organize them and mainly Islamists who are calling for harassment and violence against Jews.
Officially, relations between Montreal Jews and Quebec, and between Quebec and Israel, are excellent. Quebec was in fact poised to open a representative bureau in Tel Aviv, one of 20 internationally, intended to strengthen relations and bolster cooperative ventures in research and innovation between Quebec and Israel. Unfortunately, this war has forced a deferral until conditions are more propitious.
Meanwhile, thanks to his predecessors’ insouciance regarding corollary cultural elements in their language-based immigration strategy, Premier Legault has his work cut out for him. Nobody doubts his commitment and concern.
The question, as Europe has discovered, is whether law enforcement and political resolve will be sufficient to stuff an angry, Judeophobic genie back into a bottle most western governments blithely uncorked through their infatuation with multiculturalism, or in Quebec’s case fixation on language, both of which, alas, necessitated a self-destructive indifference to the epidemiology of terrorism.