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A list of Montreal businesses is circulating on social media, provoking boycotts and vandalism.

Published Nov 13, 2023  •  Last updated 7 minutes ago  •  4 minute read

Pro-Palestinian protesters demonstrate outside the Scotiabank building on Shebrooke St. in Montreal on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023. Many businesses deemed to be supportive of the Israeli government in its war against Hamas in Gaza have been subject to boycotts. Photo by Christinne Muschi /The Canadian Press

Jewish-owned businesses in Montreal are being targeted and vandalized with antisemitic material, with the owners too scared to speak out publicly or complain to the police, the Montreal Gazette has learned.

Lists of such businesses are being circulated on social media, mostly on TikTok, urging people to boycott restaurants and other establishments that are owned by Jews or that are deemed to be supportive of the Israeli government in its war against Hamas in Gaza. But protesters are not simply boycotting businesses; some are visiting them and vandalizing company property.

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The owner of a chain of local coffee shops told the Montreal Gazette that “last weekend, they put swastikas on the … menus downtown and they wrote F— THE JEWS.”

The owner added that protesters scrawled in permanent black marker “Free Palestine!” on the plates of one of his restaurants in Verdun. The windshield of one of his vehicles was also smashed. The Gazette has chosen not to make public the owner’s name or identify the businesses, as the individual fears potential reprisals.

“A lot of stuff had been happening but it’s worse for the schools. I think we should focus on that more,” the owner explained in a text. “The scariest is the shooting at the (Jewish) schools. I don’t want to comment on my end or put any more attention on myself or businesses. I would rather let it pass, and have all the eyes focused on schools and synagogues.”

The vandalism of Jewish-owned businesses in Montreal adds to the firebombing of the entrance to a synagogue in Dollard-des-Ormeaux last week and gunshots fired at a Jewish day school in Côte-des-Neiges — the second time the same yeshiva was struck with bullets overnight.

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The door to Congregation Beth Tikvah was damaged in an attempted firebombing in Dollard-des-Ormeaux on Tuesday November 7, 2023. Photo by Dave Sidaway /Montreal Gazette

The attacks against longstanding Jewish institutions in Montreal have elicited universal condemnation by leaders of all political parties. On Sunday, Premier François Legault vowed that “every effort will be made to find and punish the culprits. The Quebec nation is a peaceful nation. Let us not import the hatred and violence that we see elsewhere in the world.”

Still, the vandalism of Jewish businesses suggests that the attacks on Montreal’s 90,000-strong Jewish community may be escalating. Federation CJA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs are seeking authorization to hire off-duty armed police officers to guard Jewish schools. The two organizations have also appealed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for an urgent meeting with federal intelligence and law-enforcement officials to determine the threat level against the Jewish community, and what measures may be put in place to ensure the safety of its institutions.

The Gazette has obtained one of the boycott lists of Montreal Jewish businesses. A reporter has also reviewed photographic evidence by the owner whose businesses have been targeted with antisemitic material, along with a screenshot of a TikTok exchange in which anonymous users identified the owner and disparaged their establishments.

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The owner of another Jewish business that is on the list said their establishment has not been vandalized but has been subjected to harassment on Instagram.

“I don’t want to make a public statement because I’m not looking to incite any sort of negativity toward my business or my family,” the other owner said. “It’s a very unfortunate reactionary cause to what’s happening in the Middle East, and it’s something that Jewish people have dealt with for a long time.”

“I just want my kids to be safe and to live in a safe environment,” added the owner, who also declined to have their name published for fear of reprisals.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs‘ Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, denounced the targeting of Jewish businesses.

“This is very troubling and distressing,” said Poupko. “These lists of (Jewish businesses) that they’re distributing — listen, there’s not a Jew with even a superficial knowledge of history who doesn’t see a list of businesses to boycott who doesn’t remember when this was employed against Jews in (Nazi) Germany and elsewhere.

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“This is highly disturbing and it gives lie to the assertion that they are only anti-Zionists and not antisemites,” added Poupko, who is also Rabbi of the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Congregation in Côte-St-Luc.

The owners have not yet filed criminal complaints with Montreal police. As a consequence, the police are not aware of Jewish businesses being targeted, police spokesperson Caroline Chèvrefils said.

“There were no 911 calls made regarding damage to a vehicle,” Chèvrefils said of one of the incidents described to her. “At this point, we don’t have any reports for that.”

Chèvrefils, however, did comment on an incident early Saturday in Griffintown, where gunshots were fired at the Pizzeria Moretti. TVA Nouvelles broadcast an interview with the owner of the restaurant, Nicola Monaco, who suggested that his restaurant was hit with gunfire following a pro-Israel meme that a hacker had placed on the pizzeria’s Instagram account a few weeks earlier.

“I saw his interview on TVA … and Saturday afternoon I called the lead investigator, and I asked him, ‘Well, has this been transferred to the hate-incident crime unit?’ He said no. He asked, ‘Why are you saying that?’ I said it’s the owner who mentioned that” reference to the pro-Israel meme.

The targeting of Jewish businesses in Montreal follows incidents in Toronto in which pro-Palestinian supporters have swarmed outside Jewish cafés and restaurants, chanting, shaking their fists and waving Palestinian flags.

aderfel@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Aaron_Derfel

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