There were a couple of disturbing stories out of Montreal late last month.
The first involved a swastika attack, February 23, on four cars in the garage of an apartment building in the west end neighbourhood of Notre Dame de Grâce – more popularly known by its initials, NDG – an area and building with many Jewish residents. Not only were the cars defaced by crudely painted Nazi swastikas, envelopes were left at the scene with single bullets and the message, “You Will Die.”
“This was not just an act of simple vandalism, but a crime targeting the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Reuben Poupko, speaking on behalf of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
To their credit, Montreal police are investigating the attack as the hate crime it clearly was – at press time, there had
yet to be any arrests – and Quebec’s provincial legislature, the National Assembly, unanimously passed a motion condemning the crime.
Incidents of anti-Semitism have been on the rise globally in recent months, most spectacularly in Europe where four Jewish shoppers were murdered in a terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket in a Paris suburb and a Jewish volunteer guard was murdered outside a synagogue in Copenhagen.
In Ottawa, this rise in global anti-Semitism has not gone unnoticed by our political leaders. On February 24, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion condemning the “alarming increase in anti-Semitism worldwide,” noting “the firebombing of synagogues and community centres, the vandalizing of Jewish memorials and cemeteries, incendiary calls for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people, and anti-Jewish terror.”
The motion, which followed a four-hour discussion introduced by Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, a former justice minister, noted, “This global anti-Semitism constitutes not only a threat to Jews but an assault on our shared democratic values and our common humanity.”
Our parliamentarians also recognized the role of delegitimization efforts against the State of Israel in promoting anti-Semitism by reaffirming the statement in the 2010 Ottawa Protocol on Combating anti-Semitism that “criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.”
The other disturbing story from Montreal involved Judge Eliana Marengo of the Quebec Court refusing to hear the case of Rania El-Alloul, who was trying to get her impounded car returned, because she was wearing a hijab, the headscarf worn by many Muslim women.
“Decorum is important. Hats and sunglasses, for example, are not allowed, and I don’t see why scarves on the head would be. The same rules need to be applied to everyone,” the judge explained.
While the appropriateness of the niqab – which covers the face – may be debatable in court proceedings, there is nothing about a hijab, which does not cover the face or hide a person’s identity in any way, that should have been called into question. So far as I know, this was the first time a judge in Canada has made such a ruling.
From this judge’s statement, a Sikh wearing a turban or a Jew wearing a kippah would be similarly barred from court. This should not be an issue in our multicultural society