Former Canadian Supreme Court justice attacks anti-Israel group in report


Cromwell also presented 41 recommendations for York University that is designed to improve its policies and procedures in future controversial events.


JUNE 11, 2020 19:00

The York University campus is seen in Toronto, November 18, 2009 (photo credit: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH)

The York University campus is seen in Toronto, November 18, 2009

(photo credit: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH)

Thomas Cromwell, a former Canadian Supreme Court justice who was on the bench from 2008 to 2016, harshly criticized the anti-Israel student group “Students Against Israel Apartheid” (SAIA) and its conduct after a violent clash in November 2019 at York University in Toronto, Canada, during a “Herut Canada” event, which featured reservists from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) giving their perspectives on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Following the event, both SAIA and Herut were temporarily suspended, meaning they were unable to reserve rooms or put up fliers or tables on campus.  Later in January 2020, both student clubs were reinstated, and York University commissioned a review of the events by Cromwell.

In the report that has now gone public, Cromwell was extremely critical of SAIA for protesting without proper safety mechanisms, as well as for its use of intimidation tactics on a peaceful and properly organized event. 

Cromwell additionally presented 41 recommendations for York University designed to improve its policies and procedures in future controversial events, which the University president Rhonda Lenton said she will accept.

At the event in November, Jewish and non-Jewish students were both attacked violently by those opposed to the group’s meeting and presence on York University campus.

Reports allege that shouts of “Intifada, Intifada, go back to the ovens” could be heard among protesters. 

“In the five years that we have been doing this, this was the biggest protests we’ve seen on a college campus,” Amit Deri, founder and CEO of Reservists on Duty, told The Jerusalem Post in November. “It’s also the first time that we’ve seen a BDS and Antifa collaboration”

Executive Director of The Lawfare Project, which is offering help to the Jewish students in this case, Brooke Goldstein said that “These Jewish students tried to facilitate a meaningful dialogue by hosting a peaceful, respectful, and properly organized campus event. For this, they were violently attacked and intimidated by fanatics, and their organization was suspended by the university. Justice Cromwell’s report will hopefully bring an end to this sordid affair and provide much-needed closure to Jewish students.”

One of the attorneys at RE-LAW LLP, which represents the students, David Elmaleh said that “We are pleased that York University undertook such an extensive review of its policies as a result of the vile and blatant incitement of violence directed towards Herut Canada and all Jewish and pro-Israel students on campus. There were extensive gaps in the university’s policies and procedures and we welcome Justice Cromwell’s comments on the need to correct those gaps. The student government’s refusal to participate in this important process represents a grave failure in leadership and a profound embarrassment to the student leaders. Hate speech and discrimination must never be left unchecked on campus.”  



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