Sheldon Kirshner

Pro-Palestinian Activism Spills Into Antisemitism

Toronto police raided the homes of eleven pro-Palestinian activists on November 22 and placed them under arrest in connection with “hate-motivated” mischief over $5,000 and “conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.”

The target of their despicable attack, which occurred on November 10, was Chapters Indigo, a Jewish-owned bookshop in the heart of the city whose founder and chief executive officer, Heather Reisman, is Jewish. The suspects are charged with glueing posters to windows and doors and daubing red paint on windows and the sidewalk.

The vandals in question accuse Reisman of “funding genocide” by virtue of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces.

They desecrated the facade of Reisman’s store at a moment when the Israel-Hamas war had reached a peak of intensity, following Israel’s invasion of the northern Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’ massacre of 1,200 Israelis and foreigners in southern Israel on October 7.

The suspects, ranging from a university professor to a postgraduate student, claim they were motivated not by antisemitism but by anti-war activism. Incredibly enough, their ardent supporters have urged the police to drop charges against them.

Among the suspects are Lesley Wood, a York University professor; Nisha Toomey, a post-doctoral researcher who had worked at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; MacDonald Scott, a paralegal and immigration consultant who is employed by a local law firm; Sharmeen Khan, a worker at the Ontario Public Interest Research Group; Mercedes Lee, an activist with the No One Is Illegal organization; Suzanne Narain, a former elementary school teacher; Karl Sebastian Gardner, a University of Toronto post-graduate student, and Ian Doty, an elementary school teacher.

They are scheduled to appear in court separately starting in January.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a strident pro-Palestinian outfit, notes that Chapters Indigo is “a long-standing target of the movement to boycott Israel,” due to Reisman’s “indirect financial support for the Israeli military.”

CJPME claims the Chapters Indigo incident was nothing more than “a legitimate form of expression against Israel’s war on Gaza,” and urges the police to drop “the spurious charges against the activists.” The president of CJPME, Thomas Woodley, claims that “this is a grave overreach by Toronto police, which aims to stifle legitimate activism against Israel’s genocidal war.”

“We are appalled by the way that activists were aggressively arrested, and their families terrorized. There is absolutely no justification for this inhumane treatment, which is a clear form of intimidation,” he added.

Woodley claims that, by funding the Lone Soldiers foundation, Reisman “is indirectly supporting Israel’s military efforts in the occupation of the Palestinian territories, as well as the current war on Gaza.”

Woodley and his fellow travellers are conveniently and cynically downplaying the severity of the criminal offences the activists are charged with committing and blithely assume they are innocent, which is definitely not true.

In all fairness, justice must be served.

Pro-Palestinian activists should be disabused of the absurd notion that they are free to damage or desecrate the properties of Jewish Canadians who support Israel. By their twisted and dangerous logic, they should launch attacks on Jewish properties, organizations and homes in Toronto, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.

Taking the activists’ ridiculous logic one step further, Jewish supporters of Israel should be granted the right to desecrate Canadian Arab businesses simply because Arabs have sided with the Palestinians.

The misguided suspects who vented their spleens at Chapters Indigo are on a slippery slope that ends with antisemitic agitation rather than with pro-Palestinian activism. They should be under no illusions. Most Jews regard their vandalism as intrinsically antisemitic. They most definitely should pay a hefty penalty for having broken the law so egregiously.

Their hatred must be put into its proper perspective. Antisemitic hate crimes in Toronto have skyrocketed by 192 percent since October 7, according to police chief Myron Demkiw.

It is beyond debate that the vandals who desecrated Chapters Indigo have contributed to this upsurge of hatred. Their criminal behavior should come with a legal price tag, as well as immediate dismissal from their respective jobs.

They should be taught a lesson that they and their admirers will never forget.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,