The English Defence League (EDL), a controversial far-right group, has joined forces with the Jewish Defence League of Canada (JDL) in its war against “political Islam.”

At the time of this writing, The EDL’s maiden rally is planned for Tuesday January 18th. It will be organized by the JDL at its headquarters, the Toronto Zionist Building on Marlee Avenue, near Lawrence Avenue and the Allen Road.
Last Tuesday, JDL held a “support rally” there during which EDL’s leader, Stephen Lennon a.k.a. Tommy Robinson spoke to supporters via online hook-up.

Protesters congregated in front of the building, chanting “EDL, go to hell!” Despite the presence of eight Mounties, protesters and JDL supporters clashed, resulting in two arrests and a vandalized police car.

Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote in the Toronto Sun last week that he foresees a far worse outcome from Tuesday’s impending rally and is “[concerned] about the inevitable mess that will be left behind.”

Prior to the “support rally,” Farber also told the National Post that the CJC is disappointed that the Jewish Defence League would associate itself with a group “whose record in the U.K. is one of violence and extremism.”

The EDL’s controversial stand against Islam and what it calls “Islamic fascism” in the UK has alienated the group from mainstream British Jewish associations as well as leftist groups. The EDL is said to have strayed from its professed opposition against Islamic extremism and now opposes Muslims as a whole.

Britain’s respected Community Security Trust said, “They are no friends of the Jewish community, or of Israel.” Even the Board of Deputies of British Jews has rejected EDL’s attempts at supporting Zionism, calling it “empty and duplicitous.”

This unfavourable British climate may explain why EDL has now set its sights on Canada.

EDL’s grope in the dark managed to land on the Jewish Defence League of Canada, as many noted in dismay. However, this “troubling marriage,” as Farber calls it, should come as no surprise.

To some extent, JDL can be considered EDL’s kissing cousin in Canada. Although small, JDL has long held similarly controversial stands against Islam. Perhaps even more telling is JDL’s website, which lists Jewish assimilation into society, inter-marriage and “Jewish love for the non-Jew” as the biggest threats facing Jews in Canada today.

It’s important to note that JDL and its position regarding Islam is not representative of that of the larger Jewish community in Canada. EDL itself has been described by mainstream media as mainly consisting of “football hooligans” and are not expected to gain much traction with Canada’s middle-class majority.

Nevertheless, the scuffle from Tuesday’s ‘support rally’ shows clearly the ripple effect that can result from throwing a proverbial pebble that is the EDL/JDL union into a pond that is Canadian society.

Although the EDL/JDL propaganda is not expected to have much resonance, we should never the less be vocal about rejecting such propaganda here. Quietly rejecting an unjust act does not relief us of the responsibility for its outcomes.

Case in point: Terry Loughner. Sarah Palin, Fox New et al and the media in general have been largely vilified as the invisible propagator of the Arizona shooting. What’s missing in the equation is society’s role – we are as equally guilty for accepting such hateful vitriol as passively as we do any other piece of news churned out by the networks. Often times we have even unknowingly amplified their message by spreading and “retweeting” those hateful quotes. Very seldom do we realize the ripple effect that those tweets cause and what they say about our social mores.

As I am writing this, the EDL rally is still set to go on. There will most surely be a protest in response and possibly some degree of violence from both sides of the fence. Inevitable, intense media attention will ensue with one party being given more than its fair share of the spotlight. However, the way we respond to that will say a lot about our values as a society.