Palestinian boys play soccer on their street in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where dozens of Palestinian families are facing imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Thursday, May 27, 2021. The banner behind them shows a vintage photo of their neighborhood, left, and a current image of a heavy security presence. Arabic reads: "Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood - we will not leave - we will remain steadfast."  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Maya Alleruzzo

Jewish groups decry mock ‘eviction notice’ sent to residents in Canadian cities

Jewish groups decry mock ‘eviction notice’ sent to residents in Canadian cities

OTTAWA — Jewish advocacy groups are condemning a mock “eviction notice” dropped into mailboxes across Canada as part of a campaign to draw attention to the planned removal of Palestinians from a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

“We regret to inform you that your house is scheduled for demolition in the next three days. If you do not vacate the premise within this time frame, we reserve the right to destroy all remaining belongings,” the document reads.

It goes on to qualify that the document is not real, but says the threat remains a reality for Palestinian families living in Israeli-occupied areas.

The 150-person collective behind the faux alerts says it has delivered them to homes and businesses from Edmonton to Toronto to Quebec over the past four weeks, but that no individuals or neighbourhoods were targeted based on their religion or political outlook.

The Jewish Federation of Ottawa says it has seen no evidence that Jewish homes were targeted, but that police are aware of what the organization calls an “upsetting,” “crass” and “counterproductive” tactic.

“While it is egregious and outrageous, these flyers do not constitute a hate crime,” spokeswoman Pauline Colwin said in an email.

Shimon Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said mock eviction notices run the risk of triggering intergenerational trauma in individuals whose ancestors have faced expulsion and ghettoization spanning millennia.

The campaign contributes to a “profound sense of distress and anxiety,” he said. “I have never seen the level of fear — almost panic — that is taking hold within the Jewish community across the country.”

Reports of antisemitic incidents have shot up across Canada over the past month, according to three Jewish advocacy groups whose hate hotlines have been flooded with calls in a spike the organizations link to the latest Mideast crisis.

The notices, which resemble mock eviction documents that have circulated on North American campuses in recent years, first went out last month as a legal battle waged by Israeli settlers to take over properties from Palestinians in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood spilled over into an 11-day conflict in the region.

Sabrine Azraq, a committee member with the group that typed up the notice, said a jarring effect is part of the point.

“The goal really is to give individuals that momentary shock of what it would feel like,” she said.

“The goal is to just try to put yourself in the shoes of the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, in Silwan, in Jaffa and many other villages and cities where Palestinians are facing the imminent threat to be forcibly displaced.”

The group, called Palestine Advocacy GTA though it has members from across the country, has also undertaken awareness campaigns by hanging banners, including from bridges above Ontario’s Highway 401.

Michael Mostyn, chief executive of B’nai Brith Canada, said in an email the language is “indeed threatening,” and that residents whose first language is not English may “not understand the ‘mock’ nature of the notice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press


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