In the early 1980’s (perhaps as early as 1979, 1980 or 1981), Ariel Sharon visited Montreal. I don’t quite remember the exact date. But, what I do remember are the exact circumstances.
Ariel Sharon was invited to give a speech at the Ritz Carleton Hotel on Sherbrooke Street, which inflamed Montreal (French Quebec nationalists) anti-Semites to the point, where they took to the streets to denounce Israel and Zionism.
Leading the street march was Yvon Charbonneau, the President (at that time) of the CEQ, Quebec’s largest teachers’ union.
Charbonneau, the self professed Marxist/Leninist led some 10,000 chanting and Palestinian flag waving Québécois nationalists through the streets of east-side Montreal the day before Sharon’s speech.
During the day of the impending Sharon speech; non elitist Jewish groups asked for members of the Jewish Community to rally outside the Ritz Carleton Hotel, and show their support for Sharon, Israel and Zionism.
The recognized Jewish groups and leaders however; had a different idea. They implored the Montreal Jewish community to stay home.
There was tremendous fear in the establishment Jewish community, that there would be riots in the streets if Jews rallied to show their solidarity with Israel.
Charbonneau’s fiery anti-Semitic message, cloaked in his anti-Zionist speech set that tone.
For anyone not familiar with Quebec’s history of anti-Semitism: during the Second World War, Quebec was a hotbed of support for the Fascists and Nazis of Europe.
And one of Quebec’s most vile anti-Semites, the very prominent Jew-hating Lionel Groulx, is to this very day eulogized in the province of Quebec with parks, streets, a subway station in Montreal, and a college “proudly” bearing his name.
Montreal radio stations blared the news of the imminent street riots in front of the Ritz Carleton, when they imagined thousands of Jews confronting thousands of anti-Israel French Quebecers.
I WAS THERE!
The radio reports were somewhat right. But not quite.
There were as few as 100 or so Jews on Sherbrooke Street that night; mostly elderly Holocaust survivors and their grandchildren. There were a few tough looking Sephardic kids waving an Israeli Star of David flag. And a smattering of “regular” Montreal Jews just like me.
The Jewish establishment did their job and sacred away people from their legitimate right to demonstrate and show their public support for Israel.
But almost as the media predicted though, there were a great many French Quebecers on the street as well, but unlike what the media and everyone else imagined, they were all Montreal police officers.
Charbonneau and his tough-talk were satisfied spewing their anti-Semitic garbage from a safe distance on the French side of “The Main” the day before, rather than to confront Jews who were willing to get in his face.
It was an eerie sight on Sherbrooke Street that night.
Here were a diverse handful of Jewish supporters of Israel, surrounded by what appeared to be 1,000 or more heavily armed police, all of whom were basked in the surreal glow of the soft streetlights of that very posh strip in front of the Ritz Carleton Hotel.
When Ariel Sharon emerged from the Hotel to acknowledge the handful of supporters, it sent a shiver down my spine. Here was a real, honest to goodness Israeli warrior who would rather die than let Israel fall.
And then the small crowd began to sing Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. I stood in the street amongst strangers united only by a common cause with tears of pride running down my cheeks as I sang the Hebrew Anthem with them.
This evening meant a great deal to me for many reasons. I learned how easily intimidated the Jewish community was. And I learned how cowardly the tough talking Quebec anti-Semites were.
I also learned what it meant to be a Zionist. Before this memorable evening, I always supported Israel and the rights of Jews to be free and equal everywhere. But I never fancied myself a Zionist. After this evening however; I was a Zionist: proud and true.
I write this article now; because as a Canadian – it’s timely.
Yvon Charbonneau, Quebec’s anti-Semitic, Marxist president of Quebec’s largest teacher’s union in the 1980’s, later on became an elected member of Canada’s federal government as a Liberal.
This bothered me to no end.
But today (August 13, 2004), I read in the morning newspaper (National Post), that Yvon Charbonneau was just appointed to the post of Canadian Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris, by Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin.
This is Yvon Charbonneau’s reward for hating Jews and leading as many, and possibly more than ten thousand other Jew-haters against the State of Israel.
As sad as this is; it only goes to further explain why Canada has sent hundreds of unaccounted millions of dollars to support Arafat. And has consistently voted against Israel, along with the Arab and other Jew-hating Moslem and Third World states.
If there was justice, Yvon Charbonneau would have never been accepted into the Liberal Party of Canada, and he would have never been given this delicious plum assignment.
But that’s obviously not the way justice is played-out in Liberal Canada.