Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Thursday condemned Wednesday night’s incident at York University in Toronto, in which pro-Palestinian Arab protesters demonstrated against an event featuring former IDF soldiers.
Footage from the protest showed the protesters chanting “Viva, Viva Intifada” and “Free, Free Palestine.”
At one point, police were forced to intervene to prevent physical violence and injury.
The IDF reservists who took part in the event spoke to students about Israel and their experiences in the army. The reservists' visit to the university sparked a “no killers on campus” campaign organized by anti-Israel student groups.
Flyers protesting the event now cover the walls of the campus, portraying a photoshopped image of an IDF soldier who appears to be strangling a child. Anti-Israel groups have vowed to disrupt the event and are circulating a number of chants students can use to derail the event, such as “From Toronto to Gaza, Globalize the Intifada!”
Students Against Israeli Apartheid at York University organized an event on Facebook urging people to show up on Wednesday evening and tell the university’s administration that “we will not tolerate war criminals on our campus.”
“I was shocked by the vile hatred that was on display last night at York University. I have been clear that there is no place in Ontario for racism and hatred. My caucus and I stand with the students at York University who had to endure this,” Ford wrote on Twitter.
“I am disappointed that York University allowed for a hate-filled protest to take place last night at Vari Hall. I stand with the Jewish students and the Jewish community. There is no place in Ontario for racism and hatred,” he added.
Roman Baber, Member of Provincial Parliament for York Centre, condemned the incident as well and described it as “a pre-meditated attempt to disrupt a panel organized by a group of Jewish students.”
“Make no mistake - this was not peaceful protest. This was an attempt to shut down a University sanctioned event, using violence and intimidation,” Baber said in a statement.
“As a York University alumni, I expect the University to hold itself accountable for yesterday's events.”
“I have contacted the University's Administration and the local Toronto Police Division for an explanation of yesterday's occurrence. I will also be asking for a concrete plan for safety of the University's Jewish Community and guests, to prevent the re-occurrence of such disgraceful acts,” he said.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) also issued a statement of condemnation on Thursday.
“We are appalled by the violent protests that occurred yesterday evening at York University, targeting a program run by a Jewish campus club. We believe in the right of students to freedom of speech, including the right to criticize and contest ideas. However, there is no place on campus for intimidation or the disruption of student programs,” said CIJA’s Vice President, University and Local Partner Services Judy Zelikovitz.
“These actions are contrary to York University's commitment to freedom of speech. The fact that last night’s protests required such a significant police presence is alarming. CIJA will continue to support our partner on campus, Hillel Ontario, and we have communicated directly with York University administration on this matter,” she added.