As tensions have risen significantly over the last few weeks between Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Israel, many Montrealers, myself included, have grown accustomed to the spontaneous anti-Israel rallies that have taken place along the main thoroughfares in downtown Montreal.
This Sunday was no exception, as the situation in the Middle East escalated a notch after an IDF-guided missile missed a Hezbollah weapons cache in the southern Lebanese town of Qana, hitting a home where over 50 civilians had taken refuge. Many in Montreal’s Lebanese Shia community were hardened by the loss of dozens of children in the botched strike, and assembled at Dominion Square, opposite the Israeli consulate where a rally took place early in the afternoon. What followed was a spontaneous procession of some 3,000 people that spilled onto Peel St. before proceeding onto Ste. Catherine St., which became gridlocked as a result of the pedestrian traffic.
Onlookers such as myself were taken aback by odious chants directed at Israel, the United States and the Harper administration. Supporters of Hezbollah, which has been designated a terrorist group by the federal government since 2002, branded pictures of their spiritual leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, as well as a surprising number of the group’s infamous yellow flag that depicts a hand clasping a Kalashnikov machine gun. Meanwhile some of the protesters hoisted other posters that showed the mangled corpses of Lebanese civilian victims under the banner “made by Israel”, while others wearing kaffiyehs displayed a large Israeli flag that was defaced with a swastika painted over the Star of David.
After having heard countless cries of “death to Israel”, “vive le Hezbollah” and once in Arabic “death to the Jews”, I addressed some of the protesters by shouting back “am Yisrael chai” (the people of Israel live) and “shalom aleichem” (peace to all). The incident then turned violent when a fanatic ran up to me suddenly, punching and strangling me quickly as I fell onto a parked car on Ste. Catherine St. As the attacker was restrained and ushered away I then yelled “Are you crazy? This is Canada, so act civilized like everyone else watching you.” The unknown assailant was then reintroduced by protest-organizers into the crowd to avoid detection by the numerous members of the media and policemen who had witnessed the assault. Other disgruntled anti-Israel protesters then attempted to enter my place of work where I sought refuge yelling “Jewish pig” and “down, down Israel” as police and bystanders sealed the entrance briefly, preventing the mob from breaking the storefront.
Sunday’s anti-Israel rally was another sad example of how the hateful and violent ideology of Hezbollah thrives in Canada despite attempts to outlaw the terrorist organization domestically. Montreal police must enforce existing anti-terror legislation with more vigor, or sadly this may be the beginning of more violent protests to come.