“Tonight was groundbreaking. Herut Canada brought former IDF soldiers to York University!!” enthused 23-year-old student and Herut Canada president Lauren Isaacs.
Close to 200 people participated in an event featuring reservists from the Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday night at York University in Toronto despite an attempt by hundreds of violent anti-Israel activists to close it down.
“Tonight was groundbreaking…. Herut Canada brought former IDF soldiers to York University!! While Palestinian mobs protested with intensity, incitement, and violence, Herut and the amazing Reservists On Duty stood up for peace, dialogue, and truth,” enthused Herut Canada President Lauren Isaacs in a Facebook post.
The five reservists spoke about Israel and their experiences in the army. Their visit to the university sparked a “no killers on campus” campaign organized by anti-Israel student groups.
Ahead of the event, fliers covered the walls of the campus, portraying a photoshopped image of an IDF soldier who appears to be strangling a child.
During the presentation, the door was locked, and police, as well as members of JDL-Canada, stood guard while anti-Israel activists continued to chant slogans and bang on the doors.
“Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens” and calls to “globalize the Intifada” were reportedly among the slogans chanted by the Israel-hating crowd, who claimed that Israel is an apartheid state.
Meanwhile, during the Q&A, an “ex-Syrian refugee’ in the audience praised the IDF for rescuing his family from the war-torn country.
According to a statement from Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal for Holocaust Studies, “Once the reservists began speaking, the police barred the doors of the lecture hall on both sides so that the approximately 100 students who were able to enter the hall could not leave, nor could additional students enter. Protesters stayed outside the lecture hall doors for the duration of the event, continuing to chant Intifada!, blaring sirens which made it almost impossible to hear inside the hall, and banging on the hall doors.
“When the soldiers had finished speaking, police were required to escort students out of the building one small group at a time to protect them from the protesters.”
IDF Reservist: It Was the ‘Scariest’ Event
“When the (IDF) soldiers had finished speaking, police were required to escort (Jewish) students out of the building one small group at a time to protect them from (BDS) protesters,” said Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal President and CEO Avi Benlolo.
“One of the IDF reservists, who has given similar lectures at more than 50 North American universities and is used to seeing protests outside of his talks, commented that the anti-Israell protests at York tonight were the ‘scariest’ he had ever seen,” he said.
According to MSN News, “police said people who got into physical altercations were removed from the area and released without charges. Officials said a person was injured, but it is unclear how serious their injuries were.”
Pro-Israel activist and author Diane Bederman, reporting on the event, said that “a Jewish student expressed concern about wearing his kippa [on campus]. The IDF soldiers told him to wear it and stand strong. This is 2019 in Toronto, the most diverse city in the world, where Jews are afraid on campus. No other group is afraid.”
Educator Aviva Polonsky, who attended the program, said, “After today I am not sure Jewish students are safe at York University. I am calling for Jewish leaders to form an emergency task force to deal with this.”
‘Going With My Head High’
Polonsky did not join the police escort after the program. “They wanted us to leave the event through any paved, full-of-gravel rooftop in the dark. I refused. I said I am going with my head high, the regular way. I walked proudly with my husband and two Grade 11 students.”
Several people on social media praised Isaacs for her courage and ability to pull off the event while expressing disappointment with the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith Canada and the Hillel student organization, which reportedly refused to participate in the event and, according to Isaacs, had tried convincing her to cancel it.
“Can someone explain this to me? How on earth is it possible for a 23-year-old student with virtually NO BUDGET to make more noise for Israel than three or four major Jewish organizations with budgets in the tens of millions?” lawyer Guidy Mamann asked rhetorically.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford tweeted his disappointment with the university for allowing the “hate-filled protest.”
“There is no place in Ontario for racism and hatred,” he stated.
JNS contributed to this report.