MONTREAL - A Jewish group is demanding the resignation of a small-town Quebec mayor who said the state of Israel shouldn't exist.
Stephane Gendron, a municipal politician and television host, said during a broadcast last month that Israel is an apartheid state and he expressed hope for its demise.
Gendron made the comments on "Face-a-Face," a daily television talk show he has co-hosted on the V-Tele, a Quebec network.
In the short clip posted to YouTube from the Dec. 27 show, Gendron pays tribute to Quebec politician Amir Khadir for his boycott of a Montreal shoe store that sells wares made in Israel.
He calls Israel an "apartheid state," likening the modern-day boycott to the successful 1980s pressure campaign against the now-collapsed South African apartheid regime.
"Unfortunately, Israel has not yet collapsed," says Gendron, the mayor of Huntingdon, Que.
"Because products being made in Israel, on land stolen from Palestinians, who are kept walled in by an apartheid regime where they are cut off, it's very serious.
"And a country like that does not deserve to exist."
Neither Gendron nor the television network returned calls Thursday. Earlier this month, the network stated that the show is not a news show and is supposed to be a forum for opinion.
It's not the first time he's been criticized for his opinions on the Jewish state, but this time the protests have landed on his doorstep.
Members of the Jewish Defence League group picketed in front of Huntingdon's city hall Thursday, demanding Gendron step down as mayor or be relieved of his duties.
A spokesman for the defence league called the remarks very "dangerous, inflammatory and un-Canadian."
League spokesman Meir Weinstein said about 20 people protested on Thursday and the group intends to keep up the pressure for Gendron to step down.
"The community is very shocked that a mayor would make such remarks," said Weinstein. "This isn't the first time he's made remarks against Israel and the Jewish people."
Also Thursday, the groups HonestReporting Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs weighed in with an open letter calling on the television network to address the issue.
According to the organizations, the network has every right to explore controversial issues and criticism of Israeli policies is legitimate. But they said "Gendron's comments crossed the line from fair opinion to repugnant discourse."
"Our main concern at this point is that the network still allows itself to be a platform for Mr. Gendron's hateful invective," said Mike Fegelman, the executive director of HonestReporting Canada, an independent, non-profit group that keeps tabs on the portrayal of Israel in the news.
"It has been well over a month since his recent comments and despite repeated assurances that it would, the network has no provided a reply."
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an industry watchdog, confirms it has received a handful of complaints stemming from the December broadcast and the case is still open.
If complainants disagree with any eventual decision, they can then have it investigated by a special panel if there were any code violations, said John McNabb.
Gendron, 44, has been mayor of the tiny town near the Quebec-New York border since 2003, and has been reportedly courted by certain provincial and federal parties. He has gained a reputation for being outspoken and innovative.
He was once removed from television by a now-defunct network for making controversial comments that resulted in complaints.
Gendron has been back on the air since last fall.
He is also known for an attempt to institute a curfew to crack down on alleged youth vandalism.
Last year, he announced plans to boost his town's population by attracting French-speaking Muslims from North Africa. The plan was to build a mosque and slaughterhouse to attract immigrants to the town.