Thursday, February 4, 2010

(UPDATE: Video Footage Casts Doubt On Story) On Canadian Campus, Pro-Israel Students Muzzled... With Fists

See important update, titled Update II, below.

Is it irony? Or is violent intimidation of pro-Israel students on Canadian campuses so common that the odds of such coincidence are favorable? Only hours after MuzzleWatch Watch co-blogger Jon was writing his post about difficulties faced by pro-Israel students in Canada, we have a new physical attack at York University.

It's not Jon's fault, really. His typed words simply couldn't have conjured this incident. It's impossible (even if there are a couple of fantasy movies with that premise). But the news is disturbing nonetheless.

York's rather vague account of what happened is as follows:
York University is looking into an incident that occurred on Monday,

Feb. 1 at about 4pm in Vari Hall at the University’s Keele campus.

York Security personnel were summoned to that location, where they found two groups involved in a dispute. Order was restored and both parties indicated that they did not want to involve the Toronto Police Service. Security agreed to their request and provided information about further dispute resolution options. Subsequently, three people gave statements of their version of the incident.

York deplores any comments and actions that are racist or anti-Semitic in nature. An investigation is currently underway, with the potential for disciplinary action. The University is reviewing closed-circuit video of the incident and is speaking to students who may have been involved. If there is evidence of a crime, the matter will be referred to the Toronto Police Service.

York University is committed to respectful discourse and civil engagement and is encouraging the parties to avail themselves of the services of the University’s Human Rights Centre.

Ah, that helps clarify things. It was an incident. But wait... something something something "anti-Semitic in nature"? What really happened here?

More details were provided by the Canadian Jewish news website ShalomLife:
Two Jewish students at York University were assaulted on Monday during a pro-Israel program.

Tyler Golden, Co-President, Hasbara Fellowships at York University, who was on the scene when the incident occurred, described the happenings in a conversation with Shalom Life: “Hasbara was tabling for Gilad Shalit. We run a campaign called Free Palestinians from Hamas. It was a very peaceful day and we had permission from the university to table. At around 4 o’clock, several anti-Israel known faces on campus came to start questioning us and debate with us.”

Golden said that the debate that had sprung up between the Hasbara people and the anti-Israel individuals quickly escalated into an angry mob of around 50 students, who surrounded his group and chanted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs. “Security has asked us, when we come across these types of things, to call them which we did, as well as videotape it so they can see the faces and hear the voices of the people that do it. A few students on the other side were upset that there were cameras in their faces, so they started yelling and screaming. As they were trying to push cameras out of the way, they actually hit two students.”

Two York Security officers arrived on the scene. “They took down stories and students were allowed time to file complaints. I heard from the president’s office this morning that an investigation is under way,” said Golden.

But there's more. According to some very reliable hearsay that comes my way, one of the students that was slapped was a young female undergrad.

And despite York University's sanitized version, campus security apparently laughed at the two Jewish students when they asked if they should report the incident to Toronto police, thus discouraging them from taking action. The camera was apparently damaged during the fracas after falling to the ground as the student was being smacked.

Update: The reliable hearsay also suggests involvement by York University student Jesse Zimmerman. Zimmerman is said to be one of the "anti-Israel individuals" who initially was debating with the pro-Israel students. According to the account, Zimmerman stepped away from the debate to made a phone call, after which the 50 students quickly appeared and started bullying the two students. If true, this wouldn't be the first time Zimmerman headed an angry mob — see more at Jewlicious.

Update II: As noted in the comments to this post, I should have been more precise with my language, and more skeptical about an account relayed to me, indirectly, from a student involved in the incident.

The word "reliable," which I used to describe the hearsay, was meant to suggest that the source was someone very close to the action — like I said, a student directly involved in the incident. But I should have chosen a different word, since "reliable" wrongly suggests that I vouched for the honesty of this source, whom I don't know personally.

The more I look into it, the more it seems as if the source was dramatically embellishing what happened. If so, the misinformation is unfortunate in-and-of itself — lying is bad — and also because it's just not necessary for Israel's moderate defenders to invent things. The facts work just fine.


  1. This has been proven to be a hoax.

    You may want to think twice about relying on that "very reliable hearsay" again.

  2. Regardless of whether this account holds up -- and the video footage certainly raises serious questions -- I should have been more precise with my language. "reliable" was meant to mean someone very close to the action. I should have picked a word that didn't suggest I can vouch for the person's honesty. I'm curious to see if the hasbara folk respond, and will try looking into this further. Til then let's assume it wasn't violent intimidation, but just intimidation of a large crowd ganging up on a few people.


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