Toronto Star Columnist Says Anti-Israel Activists Are The Real Victims

January 24, 2024

In his January 20 opinion column in The Toronto Star entitled: “Toronto police banning protests on Avenue Road overpass will create a dangerous chill,” Krisna Saravanamuttu, a community organizer and criminal defence lawyer, argued that when Toronto police eventually prohibited anti-Israel gatherings from a major highway overpass adjacent to a significant Jewish population, the real victims were the pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

Saravanamuttu argued that the neighbourhood is home to a variety of opinions on the Hamas-Israel war, and that all Canadians “benefit from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly, expression, and public assembly,” all but brushing over the reality that rights are subject to reasonable limits. In this case, a regular anti-Israel protest adjacent to a large Jewish community – with no Israeli or Canadian government office in sight – leaves little doubt as to why that particular bridge was selected.

Saravanamuttu then made the unsubstantiated accusation that “the police chief’s decision shows that activism for Palestinian human rights and justice in particular attracts the watchful eye of the police.”

Even if this were true (which it is manifestly not, given that even reporters have been told they cannot be on the bridge), there is absolutely justification for the police keeping a “watchful eye” on anti-Israel protesters.

After all, it is anti-Israel protesters, not pro-Israel protesters, who have blocked roads, harassed shoppers in malls, physically assaulted others, and waved the flag of a banned terrorist organization. These antics have taken place across North America, and serve as a potent reminder that these rallies necessitate an especially close police “watchful eye.”

At the bridge in Toronto, he made reference to a key organizer, Naveed Awan, a prominent anti-Israel activist who has verbally accosted attendees at a charitable function and who publicly praised “Palestinian armed resistance,” a clear reference to terrorism.

Predictably, Saravanamuttu completely ignored these incidents at anti-Israel rallies, as if they simply do not exist and as a result, presented a false image of reality. Even more ridiculously, he pivotted to making groundless accusations that clamping down on hateful anti-Israel demonstrations somehow creates a slippery slope to racial profiling when he wrote that “The question of Palestine moves, then, from politics to policing, evoking memories of the racial profiling of Arab and Muslim communities post-9/11.”

Continuing his whitewashing of anti-Israel rallies, Saravanamuttu cited the example of a protester in Calgary who was arrested for chanting “from the river to the sea,” falsely stating that the charges were later dropped (they were stayed).

More centrally, Saravanamuttu told readers that the chant is “contested,” but then argued that “for many, it speaks to their hopes for a political future built on self-determination and safety for all peoples in the region, Israeli and Palestinian.” In reality, the wording is as explicit as it is direct: the removal of Israel (and its Jews) from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

For Krisna Saravanamuttu, formerly an anti-Israel activist when he was a student at York University, age has not brought a more nuanced and thoughtful perspective on Israel. As many anti-Israel activists and demonstrators seek to intimidate opponents, it is important to identify and condemn them for their actions, not position them as victims.

Saravanamuttu’s opinion column in The Toronto Star, where he positions anti-Israel activists as hapless victims, is an assault on reality and represents a whitewash of their hateful and illegal rallies.

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