FSWC Concerned Over Anti-Israel Encampments on Canadian University Campuses Amid Widespread Antisemitism at Similar Protests in US

April 28, 2024

News Release

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Toronto (April 28, 2024) - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is raising concern over encampments at Canadian universities, inspired by similar hate-charged actions at dozens of universities in the US where antisemitism and violence have targeted Jewish students and faculty and the Jewish community at large. The main demand of protesters is for universities to divest from Israel and otherwise break off all ties with the Jewish state while also denouncing US support for Israel.

Over the past 10 days, many encampments, including some bolstered by outside agitators, have been the scene of inflammatory pro-Hamas, anti-Jewish speeches, signage and chants. This has included demonstrators promoting violence against Zionists, demanding the expulsion of Zionists from their campuses and calling for the destruction of Israel. Sometimes openly celebrating the Hamas atrocities of October 7, participants have chanted "Burn Tel Aviv to the ground," "Hamas we love you, we support your rockets, too," and "It’s right to rebel, Hamas give them hell!"

At Columbia University, some protesters told Jewish students, "Go back to Poland" and "Go back to Belarus!" In recent days, among the protest leaders that Columbia’s president has entered into negotiations with to try to diffuse the situation is Khymani James. In newly revealed footage of James, posted on his public Instagram in January and published this past week in the media, he spoke at length about his hatred of Zionists and his belief that they shouldn’t be alive. Jewish community leaders in New York advised Jewish students at Columbia to stay away from the campus for their own safety for the remainder of the academic year.

So far, an encampment has been set up at Montreal's McGill University, with others reportedly planned for the coming days, including in Ottawa and Toronto.

In a letter sent to students earlier today, the University of Toronto stated, "Unauthorized activities such as encampments or the occupation of University buildings are considered trespassing... Any student involved in unauthorized activities or conduct that contravenes University policies or the law may be subject to consequences."

FSWC is writing to university leadership across Canada, calling on them to ensure campuses remain safe spaces for Jewish students and faculty and that antisemitism, such as what has been seen on US campuses, won’t be tolerated.

"University administrations must do everything in their power to protect the safety of Jewish students and faculty and ensure they’re not subjected to the harsh antisemitic rhetoric and physical intimidation that’s been a hallmark of these encampments on campuses across the US," said FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt.