Group considered radical, allegedly threatened to bomb Concordia in 2001
The Montreal chapter of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a group known for being controversial, ultra-nationalist, and sometimes violent, held their first meeting on Feb. 16.
According to the Montreal Gazette, the group’s reason for wanting to expand to Montreal was to change the political landscape of the province and combat rising anti-semitism and Islamism. JDL Director Meir Weinstein said the main goal in coming to Montreal was to combat the threat of radical Islam in the province. The JDL has been very vocal in their support of the Conservative Party of Canada and sees the Liberals as showing insufficient loyalty to their Jewish constituents.
Back in 2001, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) received death threats from a group which identified itself as the Committee for the Elimination of Palestine (CEP). On Aug. 25, 2001, a message was left on the CSU office’s voicemail saying: “Everyone who is part of the CSU is now a target.” It was suspected by the CSU that Irv Ruben, the JDL’s director at the time and a Montreal native, was behind the threats. Ruben was eventually convicted of trying to bomb a mosque and government property in the United States and died while awaiting trial in prison due to an apparent suicide.
According to Laith Marouf, who was the CSU’s VP Internal at the time and the first Arab to be elected to the CSU’s executive team, the threats also extended to the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) group. He thinks the CEP was a made-up cover name and that Rubin attended council meetings and was known for ‘threatening students.’
According to a piece published in Volume 19, Issue 2 of The Concordian, which was published on Sept. 12, 2001, all those targeted had openly stated having pro-palestine human rights views in the past.
According to a press release published by the Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) and Palestinians and Jews United (PAJU), Rubin was later accused of planning to bomb Concordia University.
“It was a very scary time. When the threats, and bomb threats, and actual bomb plans, were being made … terrorism was being plotted in Montreal against students,” Marouf recalled.
“[People] should be worried that it’s active in Canada, period,” he said.
According to Concordia’s senior advisor of media relation, Cléa Desjardins, JDL appears to be a fringe group, and is no cause for concern. Desjardins could not confirm that death threats were made back in 2001.
Thus far, the group has yet to receive any support on campus.
“We categorically reject their sensational tactics,” said Ruben Perez, Outreach VP for Concordia’s Israel on Campus (IoC). … It’s a very violent group, and their message is pretty violent. They pretend to be there to protect the Jewish community but in fact they contribute to a climate of fear.”
Perez went on to say that he is against them coming to the university’s campus, and said IoC will work with the school to do whatever it can in preventing them from doing so. “In case it does happen, we’ll see what our options are.”
Perez added that Quebec’s Jewish community has always had the full support of the government and law enforcement when it comes to anti-semitism, and he expects the JDL’s message will remain on the extreme fringes. “We don’t need that here,” he said.
The Concordian reached out to the JDL and the Montreal Police but did not receive a response by press time.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at Concordia was defunct, when it is, in fact, still a very active group. The Concordian apologizes for the error.