York students demand ban on violent JDL

A flag flies in front of a building

Canadian politicians have falsely accused Palestine rights activists of anti-Semitism. 

Shadi Hatem APA images

Following last month’s attacks against anti-racist activists at Canada’s York University, students are demanding that two extremist groups be banned from campus: the Jewish Defense League of Canada, and Herut, a Canadian affiliate of a far-right Israeli party.

This comes after the Toronto university bowed to pressure from right-wing politicians and Israel lobby groups and suspended the privileges of both Herut and campus group Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA).

SAIA members were attacked as they protested a 20 November event which brought Israeli soldiers to their campus. They were then smeared as anti-Semites by Herut and JDL Canada.

Instead of taking action against the anti-Palestinian groups and protecting its students against such attacks, York’s administration proposed a mediation process between Herut and SAIA.

The university’s president, Rhonda Lenton, announced on Wednesday that an “independent review” of the incident will begin next month.

But the investigation will not be as impartial as the university contends.

According to its terms of reference, the investigation will not be allowed to “assign fault to groups or individuals.”

This effectively shields Herut and the JDL from accountability, because much evidence points to their members being responsible for abuse and violence.

In a recent statement, Michael Levitt, chair of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Group, boasted that he met with Lenton on Monday.

Levitt, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party, repeated baseless accusations of anti-Semitism against supporters of Palestinian rights, and called for Herut’s immediate reinstatement as a campus club.

Last month, Lenton denounced a resolution by the York Federation of Students which defended the right of students to mobilize against war, occupation and the far right, including representatives of Israel “or any other imperialist power.”

JDL enforced for Herut

On 20 November, Israeli military propaganda group Reservists on Duty held an event at York, hosted by Herut.

Students Against Israeli Apartheid said it decided to protest the event because, it alleges, the “Israeli military, using Herut as a vessel, has been seen actively recruiting on campuses across Canada which is, in fact, illegal.”

Yet when the students showed up to rally for Palestinian rights, they say they were met with violence and intimidation.

Jewish Defense League members assaulted student protesters and then fabricated claims of shocking anti-Semitism, despite offering no credible evidence.

Top Canadian politicians echoed these smears without any proof.

The Jerusalem Post fueled the accusations with an inflammatory claim that supporters of Palestinian rights chanted, “Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens” at Jews.

The newspaper was later forced to concede that it had no evidence for the grave accusation, despite there being dozens of videos from the event.

The newspaper had simply regurgitated an accusation made by a former member of an Israeli army death squad who is now part of Reservists on Duty.

Before the event and protest, the university administration wrote to Meir Weinstein, the head of JDL Canada, warning his associates not to employ “threats and intimidation.”

Weinstein had previously been banned from York University, according to an interview he gave in April.

But JDL members, including Weinstein, were allowed on campus on 20 November.

Attorney Dimitri Lascaris, who is representing members of SAIA, asserts that “thugs from the violent Jewish Defense League attended the event and acted as enforcers for Herut.”

York’s letter to Weinstein demonstrates that the university was aware that the Jewish Defense League was planning to attend the event, “and that the JDL posed a serious threat to the safety of SAIA activists,” Lascaris told The Electronic Intifada.

“In the recent past, members of the JDL have been charged with hate crimes and assault,” Lascaris said. “This, too, was very likely known to York University’s administration. Despite these facts, York allowed JDL members to attend the event.”

Even worse, he noted, “security guards stood idly by both before and after attacks on Palestinian solidarity activists.”

The lawyer contends that York University “is therefore liable for the harm done to those activists.”

Students Against Israeli Apartheid is reviewing its legal options, but in the meantime, Lascaris said the group will await the outcome of York’s investigation and the mediation.

Students are demanding that the university ensure their safety and hold the JDL and Herut responsible, including by banning them from campus.

Meanwhile, the suspension of SAIA “sends a terrible message,” according to Lascaris.

“It communicates to anti-racist activists that, when they oppose powerful and influential actors who engage in or promote severe human rights violations, the university’s administration will not only fail to protect them, but it will target them with punitive measures,” he said.

Moreover, the actions and statements of Levitt, Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and other politicians “makes it abundantly clear that Israel and its advocates are held to an extraordinarily favorable standard in this country.”

“Those politicians have repeatedly hurled grave allegations against my clients without a scintilla of evidence to support their allegations,” Lascaris said.




Wow. How shameful on York University. It appears the claws of Israeli imperialisim have hit Canadian higher education... I will be sure to share this articlewith everyone I know, including every independant media source I follow.
I had felt in the past Canada could be different from the USA, but it appears we wear the same knee pads.
I'm sure my father a York alumini will be ashamed. I will als9 be sure to avoid York in future applications for our children. Had I wished for them to be programmed, I'd have sent them to Iseal, China, or North Korea for higher education.
Canada should be more than ashamed.


Same old story .The zionist class is heavily infiltrated into the Liberal government and into all the parties
for that matter .The fight for justice in Palestine is not for the faint of heart .Good luck Dimitri in your quest of same and know that you are and will be on the right side of history.


If a fascist gang can attack a human rights group with the result that both parties are banned/suspended, the fascists will have accomplished their aim. There can be only one just outcome in this dispute- restoration of full protected status to SAIA and prohibition of violent racists such as JDL and Herut from campus events.


The JDL, Canadian Zionist Federation, CIC, et al are representatives of a hostile foreign government--Israel. They should be dealt with accordingly and not succumb to fallacious claims of the meaningless term, anti-Semitism.


Would that it were merely being held to a favourable standard. It is rather that a twisted, confused, mendacious, manipulative and tendentious ideology is treated as if it is a respectable hypothesis supported by evidence. A five-year-old's sense of fairness is enough to recognise the injustice suffered by the Palestinians. When even to suggest this brings an accusation of antisemitism we have left reason behind and are in the realm of pure power. The simple principle is that all forms of authority have to justify themselves. No authority is self-justifying. Not even the most far-gone Zionist could deny that Israel holds authority over Gaza and the West Bank, in spite of a measure of power given to the devolved regimes. That authority has to justify itself and to do so it must answer criticism. Authentic authority has no fear of criticism because what it can't justify it is willing to drop. The more fearful of criticism an authority, the greater its inauthenticity. Zionists are utterly unwilling to accept any criticism. Criticism is antisemitism, which is tantamount to being a Nazi. This is what has happened in Britain: a false accusation of "institutional" antisemitism in the Labour Party has permitted it to be assimilated to the Nazis and its leader to a fascist. The media have facilitated this. The voices of Jews within Labour who rebut the claims have been silenced. Zionist sources have been treated as if, because they are Jewish they are virtuous and beyond tendentiousness. Zionists within the Party have been permitted to put their point of view over and over. A Party led by a man who has made openly racist comments has been returned to power by the media, and on a minority of the popular vote. Such is what we dare to call democracy. Our PM, by standing four-square with Israel upholds a racist regime. His opponent, who has fought racism all his life, has been labelled a racist, including by an ex Deputy Leader of his Party. Down the rabbit hole.


These are excactly the tactics used by Israel to dehuminize the Palestinian people in Israel.
It should be made very clear by law that these kind of violent provocations are stopped by National and International law.

York, act! And send out a clear message to stop these crimes against your students and to all people who fight injustice and face these injust accusations of antisemitism that are forced upon them because they oppose to the crimes committed by Israel and it's massive lobby worldwide.

Respect human rights and International law.


I think it is a big mistake for pro- Palestinian activists to protest these disgusting Israel apologists in university campuses. Let them in, let them make their speeches and then challenge them with the facts. It is a gift when you protest them, letting them play the antisemitic card. Same goes for White Supremacists, let them spew their vile hatred because they are their own worst enemy, instead, like Zionists, they can claim repression. Even better they can spew their vile hatred together. Free Speech is for everyone, esp those you disagree with.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).