‘Speak out against blaming Jews for COVID-19 spread’

By Joe Young
April 27, 2020

MONTREAL — Jews in the Montreal area — and in other areas in Canada, the U.S. and beyond — are being attacked and scapegoated on anti-Semitic charges of spreading the COVID-19 epidemic. The Quebec government has put the province on lockdown, including banning all gatherings.

Hasidic Jewish congregations located in the Outremont neighborhood have been accused of violating the order. In the last week police raided three synagogues there based on telephone reports that people were inside.

The Montreal cops sent eight squad cars to one of the synagogues, as if they were dealing with a major threat.

“In each case it was false,” Alain Picard, a spokesman for the Council of Hasidic Jews of Quebec, told the Montreal Gazette. “Police came and found there was no one in the synagogues.” All synagogues in Montreal are closed, he pointed out.

The supposed gathering was likely people lined up at a nearby Jewish grocery store, Picard said. He denounced any “tendency to associate Jews with the disease,” saying to all who do so, and especially to the police, “You have to stop stigmatizing us.”

The disease, Picard said, “strikes everyone regardless of religion, color, language or age.”

However, the Journal de Montréal, a major French-language daily, continues to push the anti-Semitic canard that the reports of secret meetings are true.

“We must refuse to let the crank members of religious groups defy the directives imposed by this confinement that is so painful, so stressful, but so necessary,” Denise Bombardier, a major columnist for the Journal,  wrote of the Hasidic Jews April 3.

“Jews were blamed for the Black Death and other epidemics” going back to the Middle Ages, Alexander Werzberger of the Coalition of Outremont Hasidic Organizations told the Militant. “They claimed that Jews poisoned the wells to spread disease.” He pointed out that the Chinese people have also been slandered and blamed for the spread of COVID-19.

Picard said that in Boisbriand the Hasidic Tosh Jewish community of 4,000 people was forcibly quarantined by the government March 29 after 27 members tested positive for COVID-19. Jews there are now compelled by police to stay inside their homes and can’t go out to shop or for walks, even if they aren’t symptomatic. Anyone seeking to go in and out of the neighborhood is forced to show identification to the police and guards posted around it.

Some 200 members of the Tosh community gathered April 7 when a food truck bringing supplies for Passover was barred from entering Boisbriand. They protested their forced confinement.

Pierre-Luc Filion and Steve Penner, who stood as Communist League candidates in last October’s federal election, issued a statement April 8 condemning the anti-Jewish campaign.

“We urge all working people, their unions, and all supporters of democratic rights to join us in speaking out against blaming Jews for spreading the COVID-19 epidemic,” they say. “The fight against Jew-hatred and anti-Semitism is a life-and-death question for the working class.

“The scapegoating of Jews for economic and social problems and the violence it breeds is centuries old — including the claim that Jews spread disease,” the statement says. “Jew-hatred lives on under capitalism, flaring up much more strongly in times of economic and social crisis, as class tensions sharpen.”

The goal of this Jew-hatred “is to provide a scapegoat to divert us from seeing the real enemy — the capitalist system itself.”

“We are not on the verge of a mass fascist movement today,” the statement continues. “But bigger crises and class battles are coming.”

“The only way to end Jew-hatred for all time is to eliminate capitalism,” Filion and Penner conclude. “That can only be done by a self-confident working class, in alliance with farmers, wresting power from the capitalist class and joining the fight for a socialist world.”