Yesterday, thirty Palestinian supporters stormed the Israeli Consulate in downtown Montreal demanding the end to the Israeli war against Hamas. They were loud, rambunctious and defiant. The police were forced to physically remove them from the building, where they remained outside causing a media spectacle that was broadcast across the country.
Just a few days before, thousands of Palestinian supporters showed up to a noisy rally downtown. What was supposed to be a one hour gathering, turned into a loud, angry three hour march through downtown streets.
I have to say I’m quite impressed with the fervent vigor of the pro-Palestinian group and their energetic methods to get their message across. I may hate what they say, but I admire their moxie.
In contrast, the Montreal Jewish Community’s reaction has been what one can only describe as bizarringly limp. The enemic weekly pro-Israel demonstrations in downtown Montreal has not grown an iota since the current war began. Jews in Montreal, which contrasts with the rest of Canada and the world, have not bothered to take to the streets to support Israel and counter the fervent almost daily anti-Israel debacles. The only scheduled unofficial outdoor response is ironically on Shabbos.
Last night the organized Jewish Community of Montreal held their official response. They organized a strange, drone like indoor rally in a synagogue deep in the heart of the Jewish Community. The event was so bizarre, even the counter demonstrators decided it wasn’t worth the effort to show up in any great numbers.
Sponsored by many different organizations, all connected to the local Federation, hundreds of Montreal Jews gathered under heavy security, in the sanctuary of the Beth Israel Beth Aaron synagogue to hear mostly unemotional, well rehearsed speeches from Federation leaders and to take part in what could only be described as a strange “live” webcast from Israel.
When one attends these events, one thinks they are attending an event that will spark some emotion, that will open eyes and that will ignite the passion to support Israel at all costs. The event last night, complete with a table accepting donations in the lobby, was merely a masked fundrasing drive for a new fund Federation set up to help Jews in southern Israel. The speeches, especially the monologues from the “live” webcam address were written by people who apparently took fundraising 101 courses (but missed the lecture on how emotional from the heart addresses tend to raise more money than scripted ones).
The shining moment of the night was a from the heart speech by Rabbi Reuven Poupko who mysteriously addressed the mostly non-existent counter protestors with some advice, basically, if you are going to ignore human rights violations of the world, you have no right to pick on Israel’s human rights violations. Somewhat contrived, but quite uplifting within the mundane program of the evening.
In an interview on Radio Shalom Montreal the night before, Federation President Mark Gold said that by holding the event indoors, the Jewish community was not hiding from the counter-demonstrators and the world, he said it “just helps us control the message”.
Apparently the message Federation and the Jewish Community were conveying was that when times get rough and Jews are attacked, we’ll make speeches of a podium in a synagogue. The message they coveyed last night was that Jews have given up taking to the street, Jews have given up self-defense and self preservation, Jews have given up organizing smart loud demonstrations. Jews are once again lambs who will run to their stables whenever trouble emerges.
Quite sad if you ask me. I remember when Montreal was the hotbed of Jewish activism. I remember attending, along with thousands of other Jews, rallies in support of the release of Jewish Russian dissidents, in support of Israel and for the release of Jonathan Pollard. Apparently the days of Jewish activism in Montreal have come to a sad and wimpering end…
That is the true tragedy.