Toronto Life Magazine Adds Its Voice To The Disingenuous Whitewashing Of Hateful Anti-Israel Demonstrations

Toronto Life has joined the ranks of Canadian outlets presenting one-sided and biased coverage of campus protests with Emma Buchanan’s May 13 piece entitled “The university’s response has been pathetic”: Scenes from the pro-Palestine encampment at U of T”.

The story opened by laying out the supposed facts, that an encampment was set up at the University of Toronto on May 2, and that since then, student protestors have peacefully occupied the space, refusing to leave until their demands of disclosure of, and divestment from, Israeli-linked investments, companies and universities have been met. To further understand the realities of the encampments, Buchanan ventured inside to interview a variety of those organizing and attending the protest.

Fortunately, Toronto Life didn’t position their piece solely around erroneous assertions from token Jewish students and faculty (indeed, only one seems to have been tapped for the cause). Instead, they do offer a seemingly representative cross-section of those involved, students and outside community members alike.

Unfortunately, that’s where objectivity stops.

Every assertion made by the interviewees – from accusations of genocide, to claims of peaceful assembly and a pacifist agenda – went unchallenged by Buchanan. At one point, an interviewee went so far as to claim that Jewish community members (under the banner of the Jewish Defense League) were harassing the encampment attendees, but Buchanan didn’t bother to look into the claim or interview any counter-protestors for their side of the story.

Of course, she did interview Gur Tsabar, a self-proclaimed Israeli and spokesperson for “Jews Say No to Genocide” – a regular token-Jew trotted out at anti-Israel rallies and events around Toronto. Tsabar – not a student at the university – shared that he’s been present at the encampment every day since its establishment. He went on to rant about the Jewish students who feel unsafe, saying that “Zionists… [are] watering down the concept of antisemitism”, and that there’s a difference between “feeling uncomfortable and being unsafe.”

While that might be true, even those in the non-Jewish world who treat the rhetoric being bandied about at these encampments with any degree of honesty can see that there are plenty of reasons why Jewish students might feel justified in feeling unsafe. Signs like ‘Glory to the martyrs’ and ‘globalize the intifada’ – both of which appear at the University of Toronto encampment – seem to unquestionably call for violence against Jews. One can argue about whether it’s only targeting ‘Zionists’, but when the vast majority of Canada’s Jewish population identifies as Zionist, the difference seems immaterial. For a non-student actor to tell Jewish students how they ‘ought’ to feel on campus is particularly offensive, since they have a right to be there, and he, ostensibly, does not.

Perhaps the most disappointing interview is one with a supposed Anishinaabe native woman named Morningstar. Again, another non-student protestor, Morningstar claimed that Israel is committing a “colonial genocide”, and that they are “doing what the colonizers did “ to Canada’s First Nations.” The ignorance in this position is jarring, given that Jews are indigenous people of what is modern-day Israel, and the victims of Hamas’ attempted genocide on October 7 – the event that set the current war into motion. For an indigenous person to stand in solidarity with those who are actively promising (and attempting) to wipe out an indigenous people is unconscionable.

Finally, although it’s clear that Buchanan attempted to paint a picture of peaceful, joyful, inclusive protests, she can only do so by presenting a sanitized and incomplete view. She very deliberately interviewed only those within the encampments, and not the many people she claims are protesting in opposition (indeed, she never even showed evidence that they exist, rather she allowed interviewees to claim that they regularly shout invectives and threaten violence to the encampments with no corroboration). She allowed accusations of genocide and colonialism to stand unchallenged, again and again, despite the clear inaccuracy of these statements. Most concerningly, she didn’t show any of the violent or extremist rhetoric present in the encampment, despite there being ample coverage elsewhere that it is a major feature.

If one is to believe Toronto Life’s coverage, this is just a joyful gathering of like-minded, anti-racist peaceniks, fighting an unjust genocide against an innocent people. But when there are signs that shout ‘Go back to Europe!’ or ‘Glory to the Martyrs’ in your protest, when you surround Jews and shout threatening slogans at them, or when flags of terrorist entities are being flown, it’s difficult to make that case. One is left to ask, why are so many of Canada’s journalism outlets, now including Toronto Life, trying so very hard to push this narrative of peace, when the facts on the ground just simply do not support it?

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