“Go back to the ovens, go back to Europe!” That was what Jewish students, pro-Israel activists, and Jewish community members heard in Vari Hall.
It was a Wednesday evening at York University. Students and community members had come out to a modernistic building on York U’s Keele Campus in Toronto to hear the stories of former Israeli soldiers. The volunteers with Reservists on Duty, two women and five men, six Jews and one Arab Christian, were there to conduct a dialogue and answer questions about their experiences in Israel’s battle against terrorism.
Shar Leyb had grown up in Canada before making the decision to move to Israel and serve in the Israel Defense Forces. The ugly scenes that met him at York University was a Canada he did not recognize.
“It’s extremely sad,” he [said]. “In Canada, my home country, people filled with hate and violence were calling for the death of all Jews.”
York U’s Vari Hall had been the scene of some ugly confrontations in the past, but no one had expected 500 [Boycott, Divest, Sanctions] BDS and Antifa bigots to show up screaming hatred and attacking Jewish students on campus.
“Before the event, we were setting up and a deaf person could hear the chants,” Shar said. “We went to see and there were a couple of hundred people. Reservists on Duty is all about dialogue, talking to the other side, understanding their concerns and finding common ground. But they didn’t want to speak.
What happened can be seen in dozens of viral videos that quickly spread across the internet.
Amit Deri, the CEO of Reservists on Duty, had expressed concerns about the potential danger at York University even before the event. Posters depicting murderous Israeli soldiers had gone up calling for angry protests. “All out! No Israeli soldiers on our campus!” they had demanded. Another poster had urged protesters to wear black. That’s the color associated with antifa and violent anarchists.
While angry mobs chanted "From Toronto to Gaza, Globalize the Intifada!” and “Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens" in the hall outside, inside the room anti-Israel thugs tried to shout down the speakers. Students were pushed and shoved by BDS bigots waving PLO flags and chanting terrorist slogans determined to shut down the event and prevent the Israeli veterans from being heard.
But the volunteers with Reservists on Duty, Shillman fellows, had their own experiences in the Israeli Defense Forces, and had been through a one-year training program to prepare them for college campuses….One of the female veterans had been in a search and rescue unit. She said that the scene outside was nothing compared to what she had faced.
[Also] “We have been in dangerous situations, we are not afraid,” Shar Leyb told students in the audience. “You have to exercise your freedom of speech.”
At the center of the ugliness was the infamous Students Against Israeli Apartheid. SAIA had already been suspended once for its tactics. And little had changed as SAIA’s account retweeted a Quds News Network story crediting the hate group for having “bravely protested and managed to disrupt an event”. Nazih Khatatba who had praised the murder of four rabbis in a synagogue as “courageous” was also there.
But pro-Israel activists believe that a sizable presence by antifa had made the situation truly explosive. The two sets of radical activists appeared to function as one movement in organizing the attacks and then developing a single narrative blaming Jewish students and activists for the violence at the event.
“This was the first time we saw a very effective collaboration between antifa and BDS pro-islamist activists,” Amit Deri told Front Page Magazine. “This event was proof that there is a deep connection between BDS and those who hate western civilization.”