More than 150 people braved the freezing temperatures to attend the official opening of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in Montreal on Monday night.
About the JDL
The JDL is an organization established by Rabbi Meir Kahane in the 1960s to confront and fight anti-Semitism. Their motto is “never again” and they deal with anti-Semitism through educating people about the realities of anti-Semitism, stomach teaching self defence and appropriate response to verbal abuse to the Jewish community, working with the police to ensure security of Jews and Jewish institutions, monitoring the media for anti-Semitic bias and holding public protests at anti-Semitic events.
Over the years, the JDL has developed a reputation as a terrorist group, partially due to several incidents involving members of the US chapter of the JDL and partially due to a leaked memo that listed the personal opinion of an FBI agent. According to the Concordian, the head of the US chapter of the JDL was once suspected of threatening members of the Concordia Student Union on a voicemail back in 2001.
In August, the JDL held a secret meeting in an undisclosed location where 50 people heard from JDL directors Meir Weinstein and Julius Suraski who explained that they are not a vigilante group. In fact, the JDL works directly with the police and local government and monitors the threat of Muslim extremists. Weinstein and Suraski also lauded their successes in Toronto, where they have succeeded in cutting funding to an organization that had ties to Hamas.
Opposition to the JDL in Montreal
Several hours prior to Monday night’s meeting, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) released a statement that the Jewish community of Montreal doesn’t need the JDL. “The Jewish community of Quebec categorically rejects the sensationalist tactics of the JDL and rejects its claim of ensuring the safety of Quebec Jews and their institutions,” said Rabbi Reuven Poupko of CIJA. “The JDL is a small, marginal group that does not receive any substantial support within our community. By claiming that the Jews of Quebec need a rapid response team to antisemitic threats, the JDL is irresponsibly contributing to the creation a climate of fear within the Jewish community.”
“The Jewish community of Quebec has no use for the JDL,” continued Rabbi Poupko. “Federation CJA, the central planning and coordinating body of the Jewish community, has always ensured the safety of Jewish institutions with a team of qualified professionals working closely with the City of Montreal Police Department. In Quebec, antisemitic crimes are thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators are punished with the full force of the law, while at the political level, antisemitism is strongly denounced.”
Rabbi Poupko also blasted those who compare the JDL with radical Islam, noting that JDL Canada has never commited any criminal acts. “The goal of those making the comparison is none other than to distract the attention of the public and of the authorities from the realities of radical Islam, the only religious fundamentalism currently constituting a security threat to all Quebecers,” said Rabbi Poupko. “There is no doubt that the presence of the JDL is problematic, however it is worth noting that the JDL of Canada has never committed any criminal or violent act, nor has it been accused of inciting hatred.”
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also opposed the opening of JDL’s Montreal chapter. In a tweet on Monday afternoon, he linked to CIJA’s press release, adding “Message to JDL: You are not welcome in Mtl!!”
The head of the Muslim Council of Montreal, Salam Elmenyawi, was also worried about the JDL coming to Montreal. He told the Canadian Press that he will be meeting with Muslim and non-Muslim groups to work out a strategy that would prevent the JDL from operating in Montreal. “If what we’ve been reading about them is true, then their presence should not be accepted by the authorities and they should work towards evicting them from Canada in general and Quebec in particular,” he said.
Meeting discusses why there is a need for the JDL in Montreal
On Monday night, more than 150 people made their way to Hotel Ruby Foo’s for the official opening of JDL Canada’s Montreal chapter. Three police vans sat outside the hotel and members of JDL Canada’s security team kept a watch both outside and inside the hotel as well. Everyone who attended the meeting had to pass through a security checkpoint.
Julius Suraski, Regional Coordinator for the JDL in Ontario, opened the meeting by leading the crowd in the singing of the Canadian National Anthem after which he explained what the JDL is all about. “We are a law abiding organization working directly with the police,” he stressed. “We are not vigilantes, we are here to defend western values. We work with Muslim groups, Hindu groups, Christian groups and others who are facing the same persecution that we face in order to promote interests that are common to all of us.”
Suraski noted that Montreal has a need for an organization like the JDL. “The urgency for our activities is no less in Montreal than in Toronto,” he said. “We have a good core of supporters here and we hope you all can join us.”
He also blasted CIJA and Rabbi Poupko for their “disparaging remarks,” and pointed out that he couldn’t find any information on their website as to how they are dealing with Islamic radicalism. “Instead, their page discussing advocacy includes the importance of increasing access to kosher chicken,” he noted.
Pulling out old travel documents that his parents, who were concentration camp survivors, had to use in Europe and the Star of David patch that they were forced to wear in Poland in order to be marginalized, Suraski emphasized that such items should never be seen again. Instead, he held up a JDL patch that he wears proudly, thanking the Canadian government for making Canada one of the world’s safest countries where Jews can live freely and proudly.
Valerie Price of ACT! for Canada spoke about meeting the JDL at a rally in Huntingdon against an anti-Semitic mayor. “It was cold like tonight,” recalled Price. “Meir, Julius and others from the JDL drove through the night to stand with us at that rally. That is how committed they are to defending the Jewish people.”
From neo-Nazi groups to radical Islamism
JDL National Director Meir Weinstein went through recent events that point to a dramatic rise in radical Islamism. He also briefly went through the history of the JDL in Canada, who in the 80s dealt with neo-Nazi groups and Nazi war criminals. “I testified at the Deschenes Commission,” he confessed. “And we made sure that those who took away the freedom of babies did not enjoy freedom here in Canada.”
In the 90s Weinstein thought the JDL may no longer be necessary, until word came out about a pro-Hezbollah rally in Toronto that attracted thousands. “I asked community organization what are they doing to stop it and they told me not to worry, that they have everything under control,” said Weinstein. “Six years ago, we reopened the JDL.”
Weinstein read several articles pointing to the rise of radical Islam in Canada and how government organizations have their hands full. He mentioned recent incidents in Montreal, such as the revelation that a Muslim organization hassent $300,000 to Hamas, anti-Semitic materials discovered on the website of an Arabic school in Montreal and an upcoming talk at a large mosque in Brossard that will be given by an Imam who was alleged to have been a co-conspirator of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
“We pledge with all our might and faith that never again will we turn a blind eye,” concluded Weinstein. “And we pledge with all our might and faith that never again will we follow blind leadership.”
Question and Answer period
During the Question and Answer period, Weinstein and Suraski informed everyone that there is a template of activity for their Montreal chapter and that while a board is currently being formed, they are not ready to announce the leader of the Montreal chapter. They also announced that anyone who would like to join should contact them.
Also noted was the fact that requests for JDL chapters had come in from Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver. “At the moment we are setting up a corridor between Montreal and Toronto and then we will move west,” said Suraksi.
Weinstein was asked whether he supported Baruch Goldstein’s actions, a physician who killed 29 Palestinians at the Mearas Hamachpelah (cave of the patriarchs) in 1994 and was condemned throughout the Jewish world. In response, Weinstein spoke about the boats full of Jews escaping the Nazis who waited several miles off the shore of Miami and how all the Jewish establishment did was meet the US President for 20 minutes and report that the President refused them entry. “If I were there, I would have stopped Goldstein from committing the massacre,” responded Weinstein, who went on to talk about how sometimes there is a need to take action. “If 20 minute meetings don’t work and you’re trying to rescue your brothers, you might have to try something else,” he said, pointing out how Moshe Rabbeinu, who saw an Egyptian killing a Jew did not stop and “form committees” and instead rose up against the Egyptian, killing him.
Surasky was asked to cite a recent example of the JDL presence accomplishing their goal and he pointed to the Palestine House in Toronto who were defunded by the Federal government as a result of work done by the JDL and their partners. “They had recently praised the murder of some rabbis in a Synagogue in Israel,” said Suraski. “We wrote a letter to the police and a criminal investigation was opened against them.”
The practical goals of the JDL in Montreal will be to monitor and infiltrate radical Islamic groups and pass all information to the authorities. As well, they will offer protection at some events and train community members in self defence.
By Zvi Hershcovich – Bill613.com