Montreal is a diverse and cosmopolitan city, primarily French speaking but with an exotic mix of many of the world’s languages and cultures enlivening the atmosphere. There’s a bit of New York here, a soupçon of Paris, the flavor of pre-Katrina New Orleans, perhaps a touch of London before it became Londonistan. A big city with a congenial small-town feel, it is a nice place to live. Or at least, it was a nice place to live until, as in many other Western cities, Islam began making its muscular presence felt—less so, clearly, than in Hamburg or Malmo or Amsterdam, but the census is not encouraging,
For Montreal—like Canada in general—has not been immune to the demographic invasion of immigrants from Muslim countries. Many of these newcomers have integrated peacefully into mainstream culture; nevertheless a significant radical presence has concentrated in the city. Journalist Fabrice de Pierrebourg’s 2007 book Montréalistan profiles a veritable Who’s Who of terrorist plotters who have settled here. “All the ingredients of radical Islamism are present in Montreal,” he says. (One can listen to an informative French interview with the author on the Jeremaykovka blog site.)
We remember that Ahmed Ressam, who attempted to bomb LAX, was a Montrealer, as is his handler Fateh Kamel, who played a “central role in the wave of terrorist acts” in1990s France. Pierrebourg points out that Montreal as a French language city naturally attracts Francophone immigrants from North Africa, chiefly Algeria and Morocco. This influx has changed the gradients of everyday discourse, influenced the media and impacted the electoral calculations of our political Parties—such as the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois on the federal level, and the left-wing, sovereignist Parti Québécois and Québec solidaire in the provincial theater.
Sympathy for terrorist and recidivist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Fatah has been steadily on the rise, coupled with the inevitable vilification of and mounting pressure against Israel. During the Israel-Hezbollah war of 2006, there were public demonstrations in the streets of Montreal in support of Hezbollah, attended by some of our most visible political figures marching in solidarity beneath the Hezbollah flag.
Although a majority of Montrealers no doubt deplore such egregious displays of prejudice and hatred, pro-Islamic and anti-Israeli sentiment is now par for the course among many in the political and intellectual classes in Quebec. When popular French TV Radio-Canada anchor Simon Durivage drew an obscene equivalence between Israel and Sudan, effectively denouncing Israel as a rogue state, he was giving representative voice to the malign spirit of anti-Israeli incitement that is becoming ever more prominent.
The most recent episode involves the leader of Québec solidaire, Iranian-born Amir Khadir, who decided to exercise his obligations as a National Assembly parliamentarian by picketing a local shoe store for the unconscionable transgression of selling shoes made in Israel. The proprietor of the shop, a certain Yves Archambault (who is not Jewish), stood his ground, saying: “I was sickened to see him distributing flyers and stopping people who were coming into the store to tell them they shouldn’t support a business that sells Israeli products.”
How such destructive meddling in the livelihoods of ordinary citizens squares with Khadir’s responsibilities as a public deputy is beyond comprehension. But he gets away with dereliction of duty. It is profoundly distressing to learn that a recent poll showed Khadir to be the most popular politican in Quebec, a fact which probably renders him untouchable. Nonetheless, as Christine Williams rightly advises, “This man should be stripped of his office” since he “does not adhere to the principles of his country’s democracy to which he owes allegiance.”
Khadir, for his part, cited the authority of Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, two well-known anti-Semites and members of the doddering Council of Elders, to justify his actions. But Khadir was only acting in character, having participated in a pro-Hamas rally in downtown Montreal in January of last year and, in a reprise of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaida, throwing a shoe at a likeness of George Bush during an anti-American rally in December 2008. Neither was a photograph of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, exhibited at a Canadian Forces recruitment center, spared the indignity of Khadir’s fetish. Moreover, Khadir seems perfectly comfortable with the People’s Republic of China, a flagrant totalitarian regime and human rights abuser which is one of Canada’s largest trading partners, and has had nothing to say about the mullocracy’s brutal repression of Green Movement dissidents and young students in Iran.
Khadir was not alone in his campaign to advance the boycott of Israeli merchandise and, while he was at it, to persecute and demoralize a small entrepreneur, ironically enough, a constituent in his own riding. According to a first-hand account of the event, Khadir had friendly company, “about a hundred threatening Arabs with Hezbollah flags shouting anti-Semitic slogans.” My own telephone interview with store personnel—Monsieur Archambault has “gone on vacation”—yielded somewhat different numerical results: perhaps twenty-five picketers at any given time, possibly a hundred over the course of the day. Be that as it may, it’s not a pretty picture.
Of course, as indicated above, most major European cities are kilometers ahead of amiable Montreal in accommodating the belligerent Muslim enclaves in their midst. Anti-Israeli activism and virulent Jew-hatred are flourishing in European centers in ways that we have not yet quite managed to approximate here. But the animus against Israel and Jews is now a metastasizing aspect of common life, as it is everywhere in the culturally debilitated West.
True, we have a great distance to cover before approaching anything like the monstrosity of a Kristallnacht, “the night of broken glass,” that tore apart the civil fabric of Germany and Austria on November 9, 1938 when Jewish homes and shops were ransacked and destroyed. But what we call the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) launched in one Western nation after another against the Jewish state is only another, more genteel version of Kristallnacht, in which punitive market enactments, so to speak, are hurled through the windows of Israeli trade and commerce. In the words of blogger Kathy Shaidle, what happened on Saturday, December 18, 2010, on St. Denis Street in Montreal, on the sidewalk fronting Monsieur Archambault’s Boutique Le Marcheur, is merely a form of “slo-mo Kristallnacht.”
It is to be expected that hypocrites like Khadir will claim that they are not racists but principled objectors. “Just because a business is in my riding, I am not going to abandon my principles,” he pontificates. After all, he did not picket a Jewish-owned shop but one selling Israeli products. This enables Khadir, and those of his degenerate ilk, to pretend they are not anti-Semitic but simply anti-Zionist, thus papering over their real inclinations. Same old same new.
No one, however, should jump to the conclusion that it is exclusively Jewish shops, or shops selling Israeli goods, that will be targeted in the future. That is living in a fool’s paradise. When the extremist and fellow-traveling Muslim minority acquires critical mass, when more and more defenders of terrorists sit in our legislatures and political Parties trawl for the Muslim vote with an ever finer net, when Shari’a law insidiously and relentlessly seeps into our juridical structures and social mores, and as the degree of our cultural invalidism grows ever more alarming, we will discover that no one is safe any longer.
We recall the famous poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller—first “they” came for everyone else and, when he did not speak out, finally they came for him. It is not only a question of Israel or Jews. It is also a question of those who may (or may not) commiserate with the victims of such bigotry and discrimination, but who feel they are not implicated and can walk away from the unpleasantness of it all.
Soon, they may find, the shoe will be on the other foot.