LEVON SEVUNTS - Although there has been an alarming increase in anti-Semitic incidents, Montreal is neither a fascist nor totalitarian city, the head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec region said yesterday.
Joseph Gabay was reacting to controversial comments made by Ghila Sroka, the publisher and editor of an independent Jewish francophone periodical, Tribune juive, suggesting that Montreal is a "fascist and totalitarian" city.
Beneath the surface of the generous and open-minded Montreal that everybody loves hides a darker side, Sroka wrote. In certain circles of the media, trade unions and universities - a triumvirate of hatred, as Sroka calls them - it's now considered fashionable to be anti-Semitic.
"Today I must denounce that fascist and totalitarian Montreal," she wrote.
Sroka couldn't be reached for comment yesterday.
Gabay said people should be careful when using the word fascist not to devalue its meaning.
"In fact, we don't think that Quebec is fascist or anti-Semitic. She goes very far."
Sroka doesn't represent the Jewish community even though her magazine is called Tribune juive, Gabay said.
"We know the style of Ghila Sroka," Gabay said. "People who read Ghila Sroka do not expect politically correct (opinions). That is her style. Her style is sometimes to be excessive, or sometimes to be aggressive.
"She is not a person of nuances. She could be provocative."
However, one has to say that there is no smoke without fire, Gabay said.
"And if I don't agree with Ghila Sroka that Quebec is fascist and anti-Semite," Gabay said, "we have to acknowledge that we are witnessing in Quebec acts of anti-Semitism: Jews, Jewish organizations and universities are targeted."
He cited the case of the Université de Montréal à Québec sociology professor Stephen Schecter, who was confronted outside his classroom by student protesters, chanting "Israel assassin, Schecter accomplice," although their protest was supposed to be about university policies and had nothing to do with Middle East politics.
"It's scary, it's becoming worrying," Gabay said. "Nobody is hiding. We didn't reach the point that we don't wear kippas or the Magen David like in France - in France people are very careful.
"But on the other hand, the Jewish community cannot stay quiet.
"There is an ill-smelling smoke over the city and over the country."
City not fascist, CJC says
Tolerance waning. Ill-smelling smoke over country: Gabay