Toronto Star Columnist Faisal Kutty Attempts To Spin Stinging Failure By Campus Mob Into A Win

On July 2, Justice Markus Koehnen of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted an injunction ordering a small group of anti-Israel activists off a lawn at the University of Toronto, where they had been present for two months, refusing to leave. The judge gave until 6pm the following day for them to vacate the premises, otherwise police would be empowered to remove them by force.

In the hours before the deadline, the occupiers packed up and surrendered without a fight, despite long promising not to do so until their demands were met. And in the end, their demands for the University of Toronto to divest from Israeli academic institutions was not met.

While it is apparent that the small group of occupiers, who – despite their lofty rhetoric about resistance – folded like a house of cards without a fight, lost the battle without anything to show for it.

But that abject failure did not stop Faisal Kutty, a Toronto Star columnist and one of the newspaper’s most reliably anti-Israel commentators who bills himself “the Muslim lawyer” on social media, from attempting to spin an abject loss into somehow a win.

In his July 7 column entitled: “Court ruling a vindication for pro-Palestinian protesters at U of T,” Kutty twisted himself into a pretzel in attempting to convince readers that a loss isn’t really a loss.

Much of Kutty’s argument rested on seizing on a few isolated lines from Koenen’s judgment, including where he refers to the occupiers as “young idealists fighting” for a cause, despite evidence showing that most of them were older adults, and not students at all.

Kutty tried to reframe reality, calling occupiers “students” and somehow ignoring the majority of whom were precisely not students, and in so doing, attempted to lend the motley group an air of legitimacy and youthful energy.

Although Kutty’s column purported to claim how the occupiers were somehow vindicated – by being forced to leave without any successes – he also complained about other schools “such as York, Calgary, Alberta, and Laval, cleared them (occupiers) without any express legal authority,” and whined to readers about the University of Waterloo suing the demonstrators for 1.5 million dollars.

But those schools did have the legal and moral authority to clear the anti-Israel mobs from their campuses. York University served occupiers with a trespass notice, which was honoured by police, and elsewhere, law enforcement used their legal authority to clear an illegal occupation on university property, which was their right.

In his column, Kutty told readers that “the judge also dismissed the allegations of violence and antisemitism. While the judge found there was hateful language outside of the encampment, he could not find evidence within it.”

As pointed out by Globe & Mail columnist Robyn Urback, Koenen’s statement “is only an exoneration insofar as the university was not able to prove that encampment participants were engaging in antisemitism.” Ultimately, it is a distinction without a difference. Koehnen acknowledged the presence of anti-Jewish hate speech around the encampment, and because he did not know the identity of those individuals and whether they were part of the occupation or not, he could make a definitive judgment.

But the point is somewhat immaterial: like moths to a flame, the occupation attracted a cadre of Jew-haters which, in the mind of any honest observer, should have delegitimized the entire effort. And it did: polls showed that the vast majority of Canadians opposed the campus occupations.

Trying in vain to find vindication in the face of a stinging loss is understandable and a normal human response to failure, but ultimately, Faisal Kutty’s column is a pitiful attempt to convince readers that a profound failure to achieve any results by the anti-Israel mob is somehow a success.

Send your considered comments to the Toronto Star. Send letters to the editor to: lettertoed@thestar.ca.

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