Toronto
Toronto iStock

Anti-Israel protesters gathered at a plaza popular with Jews in a heavily Jewish Toronto suburb Friday afternoon, causing a major disturbance and harassing shoppers as they prepared for Shabbat.

According to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), the protesters had travelled an hour north from the annual Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) conference to Chabad Gate Plaza in Thornhill to “accost Jewish shoppers, intimidating, harassing them as they prepared for Shabbat.”

“Jewish businesses & community members were confronted with unprovoked verbal assaults of Jew-hatred & anti-Jewish racism,” CIJA said on Twitter. “It should be unacceptable to all Canadians for any community to be attacked so blatantly based solely on their identity.”

CIJA thanked law enforcement for their quick response.

“We are grateful for the quick and diligent response of York Regional Police for keeping our community safe,” they said.

The pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with pro-Israel supporters who showed up at the plaza to stand up for their community.

Thornhill provincial politician Melissa Lantsman called the protest a “blatant act of antisemitic hate” and a “hate crime.”

“Protesters screaming free Palestine, yelling antisemitic slurs and intimidating Jews in Thornhill outside a plaza of mainly kosher establishments. This is NOT anti Zionism —it’s a blatant act of antisemitic hate which must be condemned by everyone,” Lantsman said in a tweet.

“You don't come to a Jewish neighborhood and yell antisemitic tropes if it isn’t about hating Jews. I hope York Regional Police and police forces across the country start treating these events for the hate crimes they are — so open Jew hatred in our streets ends, today.”

A video of the incident posted to social media by the StopAntisemitism organization included a pro-Palestinian protester yelling, “Shabbat Shalom, b****es.”

Police arrived at the plaza and broke up the confrontation, arresting at least one of the pro-Palestinian protesters.

The incident took place on July 1, which was Canada Day.

“Jewish Canadians have been in this country since 1760,” MP Anthony Housefather tweeted. “We are incredibly proud Canadians and Canada Day is our national holiday. To do something like this on Canada Day is especially offensive.”

Last year’s MAC conference was denounced by CIJA for featuring Tareq Al-Suwaidan, whom they described as a “notorious extremist preacher affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood” who “is the author of the wildly antisemitic ‘Jewish Encyclopedia’, a book which aims to teach ‘about the most hostile enemies of the Muslim nation’ and is littered with antisemitic propaganda, including Holocaust denial.”

CIJA also noted that Al-Suwaidan was previously denied entry into Belgium and Italy, “where he was scheduled to spread his toxic ideology.”