Pro-Palestinian ‘Youth Program’ ad sparks outrage from Montreal’s Jewish community and others, SPVM investigating

“Meaningful action needs to be taken” says Eta Yudin, of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. The public outcry comes days after a Pro-Palestinian ‘Youth Program’ ad sparks outrage among Montreal’s Jewish community. Swidda Rassy reports.

By CityNews Staff

Elected officials and Jewish community groups have denounced a social media post from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR) in which the image shows a handful of people reading books with firearms present. Montreal police said they are investigating and have involved the RCMP.

The Instagram post promotes a four-week program, launching on Monday, that they say teaches “the history of Palestinian resistance,” “Pan-Arabism,” “Present-day Resistance,” and other topics.

A press release from McGill University’s president and vice-chancellor, Deep Saini, called the post “extremely alarming” adding that it has attracted international media attention.

In addition, Saini writes that, “imagery evoking violence is not a tool of peaceful expression or assembly.”

CityNews spoke to SPHR McGill on Monday morning and they say they weren’t surprised by the response.

“Of course it was expected that it was going to spark that negative response because anything that goes back to that history directly challenges Zionist narratives that have been deliberately pushing Palestinian stories to the side as a way to undermine us,” said Rama, spokesperson for SPHR McGill.

The photo in question is said to have been originally taken in 1970 of fighters with the Palestine Liberation Organization reading copies of Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung in Jordan. The fighters are holding books and assault rifles.

“The use of this historical photo is just a reaffirmation of our commitment to reclaim these Palestinian narratives that have been either deliberately destroyed in their physical sense but also as narratives that have been pushed to the side,” added the SPHR McGill spokesperson.

At a protest outside Montreal City Hall on Monday afternoon, organized by Federation CJA and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, hundreds called on the Mayor Valérie Plante to take more action to fight anti-Semitism. 

“We’ve reached the point where it’s enough,” said Eta Yudin, Vice President, Quebec, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Instagram post from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR)
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR)

“There needs to be arrests, these encampments that continue to be tolerated while other civic infringements are pursued aggressively,” added Yudin. “How do you have an illegal encampment go on and on? Everyone’s called it out. The premier, the minister of higher education, the dean, the principal of McGill himself has called it illegal, has talked in a parliamentary commission about anti-Semitism at McGill and not only are they still there but now they’re running a youth camp.”

A statement to CityNews from Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante’s office, reads in part, “Images and statements evoking violence have no place in our city. I strongly condemn this image shared on social media. We are in contact with the university and the SPVM regarding this matter. This situation is not taken lightly, and we have confidence in the SPVM’s expertise to continue ensuring the peaceful nature of the encampment.”

McGill says they will be increasing security and pursuing legal action to bar SPHR from using the “McGill” name on social media.

The university will also be pursuing an internal disciplinary process and are calling on other student groups to distance themselves from the SPHR.

Over 250 hate crimes and incidents in Montreal since Oct. 7

In a press conference held on Monday, Inspector David Shane of the Montreal Police (SPVM) says that since Oct. 7, amid the Israel-Hamas war, 146 hate crimes and 104 hate incidents have been recorded by the SPVM.

Thirty-one files have been submitted to Quebec’s director of criminal and penal prosecution, the DCPC, and one suspect has been arrested in connection to a shooting at a Jewish school in Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough on Nov. 12, 2023.

“Once more, we supervised more than 250 demonstrations almost all of which took place in an orderly fashion,” Shane said.

“With regards to the camp at McGill University, we’d like to remind you that the university has applied to the Superior Court for an injunction to order its dismantling,” he said.

Shane added that this is a civil dispute for which legal proceedings are currently underway as the Superior Court will “therefore have to rule on the important question on two opposing fundamental rights: the right to enjoy property versus the right to exercise freedom of expression,” he said.

Some government officials have taken to social media to denounce the post with Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller saying “freedom of expression and the right to protest have their reasonable limits and they have been reached.”

Minister of Higher Education of Quebec Pascale Déry called the post “troubling and alarming”

“We deserve to feel safe in our city and we deserve to be protected,” explained Yudin at Monday’s protest in front of City Hall.

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