MONTREAL — The appearance of three people in face-concealing burka-like costumes carrying signs reading “Mort à Israel” on St. Denis Street on a busy Saturday afternoon Oct. 22 has highlighted a difference of opinion over how best to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in Montreal.
The incident occurred outside Chaussures Naot, at 3941 St. Denis St., which has been the target of an ongoing boycott campaign initiated by Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) because it sells footwear made in Israel.
The three, apparently all men, were, in fact, from the pro-Israel side, but they weren’t from the Jewish community, said Jack Kincler, a leader of the grassroots counter-protesters since PAJU’s picketing began in October 2011 outside another shoe store across the street, Boutique Le Marcheur.
They have not revealed themselves, and Kincler said he doesn’t know who they were. “And if I did, I would not say. It’s up to them to come forward.”
While he said he was somewhat “uncomfortable” with the stunt, he added, that it “was theatre of the absurd, funny,” and a legitimate means of expression in a free country. The three were using irony and a little showmanship to gain attention to counter “the lies” that are being spread unchecked by the other side week after week, he maintained.
The PAJU demonstrators display banners accusing Israel of practising apartheid and other human rights violations.
In smaller lettering, the masked men’s signs carried slogans – in French – such as “Beating your wife is criminal in Israel,” “Israel does not kill political dissidents like in Iran,” and “Israel is a refuge for gay Arabs.”
A video that was posted on YouTube by PAJU shows the trio ululating like Muslim women as they hand out pink flyers. A man attempts to throw a pie in one of their faces.
The videographer also chases one of the burka-clad protesters into a lane asking him to show his face, but he refuses. A police officer intervenes, warning the videographer to back off and saying that it’s just “theatre.”
PAJU called a press conference Oct. 25 accusing the anti-boycott demonstrators of acting in a “threatening and racist” manner, and claiming the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Réseau Liberté-Québec (RLQ), a conservative political group founded by journalist Eric Duhaime last year, of being behind the stunt...