Quebec-Israel Committee works to score an important victory over Israel Boycott Initiative

Photo : courtesy of Quebec-Israel Committee

Photo : courtesy of Quebec-Israel Committee

The courage of a Montreal small business owner and the support of our Jewish community and the broader Quebec society have succeeded in defeating a boycott campaign organized by the anti-Zionist group, PAJU.

Le Marcheur, an independent shoe store at 4062 Saint-Denis, carries a line of Israeli shoes called Beautifeel. For months, members of PAJU gathered in front of the boutique every Saturday in an effort to intimidate customers and to coerce the owner, Yves Archambeault, to stop selling Israeli products.

The owner refused to succumb to the pressure. The Quebec-Israel Committee (QIC) launched a campaign to raise awareness of the issue and encourage consumers to patronize the shop, drawing widespread attention to the unconscionable and aggressive actions of a group of extremists trying to interfere with normal commercial activity and to demonize the Israeli and Jewish communities. Jewish Montrealers were moved by Archambault’s determination, and flocked to Le Marcheur to purchase Beautifeel shoes and demonstrate solidarity with his principled stand.

The resulting wave of media, political, and public support for Le Marcheur ultimately extended far beyond the Jewish community. All major news outlets published scathing attacks on the protesters and Amir Khadir, the Québec Solidaire Member of the National Assembly, who joined PAJU.

Politicians from across the political spectrum showed their support for Le Marcheur with both public statements and by visiting the store and purchasing shoes. This was highlighted when Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois stated, unequivocally, that the PQ would refuse to support any kind of boycott of Israel.

On February 9, Francois Bonnardel (Shefford) of the Action démocratique du Québec, Martin Lemay (Ste. Marie – St. Jacques) of the Parti québécois and Lawrence Bergman (D’Arcy McGee) of the Liberal Party introduced a motion condemning the boycott and affirming “the National Assembly reiterates its support for the understanding on co-operation between the government of Quebec and the government of the State of Israel, which was signed in Jerusalem in 1997 and renewed in 2007.”

Predictably, Khadir stood alone in preventing the motion from being debated. Nonetheless, its support from all three major parties of the National Assembly sent a strong statement and demonstrated that Quebec, in general, is supportive of positive relations with Israel.

Additionally, on February 22, Montreal city council adopted a motion deploring the boycott campaign and supporting the Quebec-Israel cooperation agreement, thus further consolidating the political consensus to the disavow anti-Israel boycotts in Quebec. Mayor Gérard Tremblay, who personally tabled the motion, described the campaign as running contrary to Montreal and Quebec values and, furthermore, labelled the picketing a form of harassment and not a simple exercise of the right to demonstrate.

In late January, PAJU announced that it was “temporarily” calling off its participation in the weekly protests due to the embarrassing announcement that the extreme right-wing Mouvement Nationaliste-Révolutionnaire Québécois, which shares the anti-Zionist agenda of PAJU and Québec solidaire, would join the picketing line. While PAJU has since taken back to the streets and extended its picketing to the neighbouring Naot shoe store, its on-going campaign will only contribute to further poisoning the anti-Israel movement in Quebec.

Federation CJA joins QIC in congratulating everyone who participated in this grassroots demonstration of support and thanks those who have been spreading the word.

“As we have seen, this strategy of civility, restraint and wisdom has ensured the defeat of those trying to provoke us. We know that our support for Israel and our desire for coexistence in Quebec will be strengthened by our continued support for Le Marcheur and Mr. Archambault in the future, and by avoiding any confrontation with the protesters,” said Luciano del Negro, Executive Director of QIC.