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Toronto Pro-Israel Extremists Force Cancellation of a Pro-Israel Meeting

January 9, 2020

Undemocratic IHRA Redefinition Has Unexpected Result

By John Riddell: York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies has cancelled a proposed pro-Israel meeting “after the organizers learned of plans to disrupt the event,” reports the January 9, 2020, edition of Canadian Jewish News (CJN).

The disruption threat came from an extremist pro-Israel group, Jewish Defense League, with a long record of violence and disruption. (See note below)

The stated purpose of the gathering was to discuss “the current climate faced by Jewish students on campus” – a formula routinely used to introduce condemnation of students advocating human rights for Palestinians. Yet the meeting was challenged not by friends of Palestine, who scrupulously respect the rights of pro-Israel students and activists, but by a Zionist group notorious for expressing its hostility to Palestinian rights through extremism and violence.

According to CJN, the JDL “posted a note online saying that it has successfully got the ‘event with BDS enabler Mira Sucharov’ cancelled.” In fact, stated meeting organizer Carl Erlich, “all three of our panelists are pro-Israel…. While they may hold different views about how to achieve peace in the Middle East, this event is about the climate for Jews on university campuses.”

Ehrlich acknowledged he had received complaints about another speaker, Alexander Joffe, whose title includes the words “BDS monitor.” In fact, Joffe is “the one who monitors BDS activity for the very pro-Israel Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,” Erlich noted.

Meeting organizers plan to reschedule the debate with increased “security.”

Wires Crossed among Palestine Opponents 

Did this cancellation result merely from a comical misunderstanding among pro-Israel campaigners? The CJN account suggests that something more was involved. It quotes Sucharov as praising the organizers “for not buckling under pressure” and rescheduling the meeting, thus supposedly protecting “open discourse within universities.”

In fact, the meeting organizers and other forces in the university pro-Israel establishment stand together with the violence-prone Jewish Defence League in supporting measures to smother defence of Palestinian rights, under the spurious claim that Palestinian advocacy is anti-Jewish hate speech.

Yet this is not the first time that the pro-Israel establishment has been at cross-purposes with the Jewish Defence League.

SAIA Demonstration, York University, Nov. 20, 2019

In November 2019, the pro-Israel campus branch of Herut Canada called in the Jewish Defence League and some “Jewish motorcycle clubs” to provide “security” at an on-campus event celebrating the murderous Israeli Defence Force. Several hundred students rallied outside the meeting November 20 to oppose the Israeli army’s crimes against Palestinians. The JDL and its allies seized on the opportunity to assault this peaceful demonstration. Many protesters were hurt and one sent to the hospital.

(See report by Independent Jewish Voices and commentary by Mona Dennaoui and Hammam Farah.)

The Canadian government and international media, seizing on false reports, were quick to interpret the incident as an anti-Semitic assault on Jewish students. However, Canadian Jewish News expressed unease with the Herut initiative, noting that the main Jewish student group, Hillel, had opposed the venture.

Incitement to Violence

Why did JDL feel empowered to attack and embarrass its own pro-Israel allies in these two incidents? Their renewed boldness flows in large measure from government-promoted efforts to impose a “redefinition of anti-Semitism,” known as the IHRA statement, which brands criticisms of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people as “anti-Semitic” hate speech. The statement signals that it’s open season to attack free speech where Israel/Palestine is concerned, be it through harassment, disruption, or physical attacks.

JDL’s violent attack at the Herut meeting and its farcically failed attempt to disrupt a mainstream pro-Israel meeting were both enabled by this campaign of pro-Israel loyalists to suppress dissenting views on Israel as “hate speech.”

The ill-advised IHRA bid to “redefine” anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel (the IHRA redefinition) has set in motion a chain-reaction of attacks on freedom of discussion, which threatens the rights of everyone in Canada.

As a first step to rein in anti-Palestinian brutality and disruption, we need to block attempts to impose the undemocratic IHRA redefinition and uphold the right of all to freely discuss political conditions in every countries, including Israel/Palestine.

See the Independent Jewish Voices statement, “IJV Urges the Canadian Government to Reconsider its Use of the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism.”


A previous version of this post stated that “BDS Monitor” is part of the title of Mira Suchanov. The text has been corrected to indicate that this is in fact the title of another proposed panelist, Alexander Joffe.

Note on the JDL

The Wikipedia article on the JDL begins: The Jewish Defense League (JDL) is a Jewish far-right religious-political organization in the United States, whose stated goal is to “protect Jews from antisemitism by whatever means necessary”. It was classified as “a right wing terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001…. According to the FBI, the JDL has been involved in plotting and executing acts of terrorism within the United States.


From → Middle East

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