MONTREAL — About 3,000 people enthusiastically answered the call of Montreal’s Federation CJA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs to give the Jewish community the opportunity to express its solidarity with Israel as it faces a tough war with Hamas.
Despite the fact that it’s mid-July, the federation’s Gelber Centre was full to overflowing for the rally, and organizers had to install loudspeakers in the corridor and in the garden of a neighbouring building for the many people who couldn’t get inside to hear the speakers.
Federation CJA president Susan Laxer thanked the huge numbers who came out for their “unfailing support for Israel” during this very trying period for all Israelis.
“We Jews are a single people and a single community. We speak with one voice to unconditionally support Israel in this war, begun, it must be recalled, by Hamas.”
In collaboration with the Jewish Federations of North America, Federation CJA has established an Israel terror relief fund to help meet the urgent humanitarian needs created by the hostilities, which started in early July. Its goal is to raise $10 million.
Joel Lion, Israel’s consul general for Quebec and Atlantic Canada, thanked the Montreal Jewish community for its “profound love of Israel and its people.”
He reminded the audience that the State of Israel is not at war against the Palestinian people, but against a “fundamentalist, Islamist terrorist organization, Hamas, whose only goal is the destruction of Israel.
“As Jews, it hurts us enormously to see that to protect the Israeli population, the Israel Defence Forces’ soldiers must go into areas where many Palestinian civilians live, in order to neutralize the cruel, fundamentalist Islamists,” Lion said.
“Israelis empathize with the Palestinian civilians. We take all the necessary measures to minimize the number of Palestinian civilian victims. The IDF is an army that has high ethical values.”
The Stephen Harper government was represented at the rally by Pierre Poilievre, the minister of state for democratic reform and MP for the Ontario riding of Nepean-Carleton.
The young politician strongly defended Israel’s right to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens, who are being attacked day and night by rocket salvos.
“You can’t establish an equivalence between a great liberal democracy, Israel, which absolutely must defend its citizens against violent rocket attacks, and a terrorist organization, Hamas, which has not ceased to sow chaos and destruction. One hundred per cent of the blame is attributable to Hamas. Israel uses its weapons to protect its civilians while Hamas uses its civilians to protect its weapons,” said Poilievre, who was warmly applauded before, during and after his speech.
Mount Royal MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler also vigorously challenged the “moral equivalence” between Israel and Hamas being made by those who vehemently criticize the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“In this war triggered by Hamas, Israel has only one goal: to protect its citizens, who are the target of incessant rocket attacks that no democracy can tolerate,” Cotler said.
“On the other hand, Hamas is not only a terrorist organization. That hardline Islamist entity openly extols a nauseating anti-Semitism that calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews everywhere in the world.”
Federation CJA chief executive officer Deborah Corber took part earlier this month in a solidarity mission to Israel organized by the Jewish Federations of North America, and Congregation Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem’s Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz travelled to Israel around the same time. They spoke about what they witnessed on the ground during their visits to Ashkelon, Sderot and Be’er Sheva, cities directly affected by rocket attacks.
“All the Israelis we met thanked us warmly for our support, and especially for being at their side in these very difficult times,” Corber said.
Rabbi Steinmetz made an emotional appeal to the Jews of Montreal to constantly mobilize to defend Israel’s “very legitimate cause” with non-Jewish Quebecers.
When Israel is attacked, we Jews must remain proudly at its side. I love Israel deeply because that small country loves life and we Jews also greatly love life.”
Cantor Gideon Zelermyer of Congregation Shaar Hashomayim performed several songs dedicated to Israel and the young IDF soldiers who have died in battle.
Translation by Carolan Halpern