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Levesque Urges Jews of Quebec to Integrate with the French Majority

January 31, 1979
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Prime Minister Rene Levesque, leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois, urged the Jews of the Province of Quebec to reconcile themselves to and integrate with the permanent French cultural and linguistic majority in Quebec. He also gave his “solemn assurances” that his government will not tolerate any form of “racism or discrimination.”

Levesque addressed 1500 Jews at the Chevra Kadisha B’nai Jacob Synagogue here last night. He appeared on his own initiative as part of his ongoing campaign to make the policies of the Parti Quebecois better understood by the Jewish community. But he received only polite applause from his audience during his speech and in a question period which covered both domestic matters and his attitude toward Israel.

Levesque was visibly infuriated by a group of Jewish youths who heckled him as he entered the synagogue and waved banners equating the Parti Quebecois with the Nazis. The youths were not identified and it is not known which it any, organization they are affiliated with.

The Prime Minister referred to the incident during his opening remarks. “Ever, thing I can take but that one I will not take,” he said. He referred to a banner that read “Parti Quebecois–National Socialism.” He told the audience, “I was overseas during the war and among the first group that went into the Dachau con###tion camp and I know what happened in Europe. There is no comparison, he declared, between “the mad empire of Nazi Germany and the bootstrap nationalist operation that we have to go through like you did to get your homeland.”


Levesque said, “As long as we last as a government, I can give you my solemn assurances that any form of racism or discrimination based on religion, culture or origin is out. “Later in his remarks, he urged Quebec Jews to forget “the 15 years ago nostalgia,” a reference to the time before French nationalist sentiments emerged as a major political force in the province. “Whatever government will come to power in Quebec, Jews will have to integrate the French majority reality that exists,” he said.

A member of the audience reminded the Prime Minister of a newspaper column he wrote at the time of the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972 and asked bluntly, “Do you believe that Israel deserves to live as a sovereign Jewish State?” Levesque noted that he had described the murder of the II Israeli Olympic athletes as “barbaric” and had written “that kind of atrocity was inexcusable.” But, he said, “The background had to be understood.”

Levesque said that while he understands the Jewish community’s feelings for Israel, “this sometimes makes some Jewish people unable to accept normal criticism of Israel. In fact, there is no butter proof of the permanence and the states of Israel than to be exposed to some criticism.” He added that he was only repeating what he told Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres when they met here recently.

“To me and to our government it is obvious, and something to be defended, that Israel is a permanent thing that will remain,” he said. However, he warned, “if a way is not found to dovetail eventually the two complimentary realities of the State of Israel and some Palestinian future, there will be no solution in the Middle East.”

Levesque noted that locally his government is engaged in two projects–to build an old-aged home adjoining the Jewish General Hospital and to add two floors to the Maimonides Hospital for the Aged.

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