By Mona Dennaoui and Hammam Farah for The Toronto Sun
On November 20, Israel advocacy group, Herut Canada, held an event at York University with former soldiers of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), which has held recruitment drives in Toronto, although it is illegal for a foreign military to recruit in Canada.
As the Palestine solidarity club on campus, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) York, we decided to protest our university administration’s decision to provide an event in support of the IDF.
Despite reaching out to the administration, with concerns about harassment and intimidation by pro-Israel groups and their allies in the Jewish Defence League (JDL), incidentally classified as a terrorist organization in the U.S., the event was approved.
Our concerns proved to be well founded as JDL members began physically assaulting protesters, which affected York students, community members, and their families, whom the event was intended to intimidate into passivity.
This is not, however, how local and national media outlets reported the event.
Despite the lack of evidence, figures from the political elite, like Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in addition to Michael Levitt, Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford united in claiming that pro-Palestine activists engaged in racist chanting and violence.
However, the available video evidence, widely shared over social media, reveals the exact opposite.
On Wednesday night, violence & racist chants broke out against an event organized by the Jewish community at York University. What happened that night was shocking and absolutely unacceptable. Anti-Semitism has no place in Canada. We will always denounce it & all forms of hatred.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 22, 2019
Some of the manufactured controversy apparently revolves around our use of the Arabic term “intifada,” which means “uprising.” The term is to be understood within the context of the ongoing Palestinian resistance to Israel’s continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land, violations of international law and well documented war crimes.
In fact, the majority of resistance activities against the occupation have been incidents of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest in the face of the might of the Israeli army. As recent as last week, 34 Palestinians, including eight children, were killed by Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment and collective punishment on the besieged Gaza Strip.
#WATCH | Students at York University in Canada bravely protested and managed to disrupt an event where Israeli soldiers were invited by Herut Zionist organisation and the Jewish Defense League (JDL) extremist organization in the US. pic.twitter.com/wCyUkKsMrc
— Quds News Network – Backup Account (@Qudsn_en) November 23, 2019
Let us be clear, we believe that the purpose of this event was to harass and intimidate York students and, in particular, Palestinian students. The documented instances of physical assault by members of pro-Israel groups bears this out.
If members of pro-Israeli groups at York University have the freedom to host a lecture by members of a foreign military, that violates the rights of York’s Palestinian students and their families, it must also be recognized that Palestinians at York, and supporters of their rights have the freedom to peacefully express their opposition to this.
This is our right under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. And we will fight to protect it should the university administration, or the government, seek to deprive us of it.
Authors: — Mona Dennaoui is a former exchange student at York University and member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid and Hammam Farah is a York University alumnus and co-founder of Students Against Israeli Apartheid, at York University
Edited for IMEMC: Ali Salam