A day after controversial Sun News Network host and author Ezra Levant spoke at Ryerson, heated comments erupted on the Ryerson Students’ Union Facebook page.
Pro-Israel students reacted angrily Friday after the RSU page’s administrator removed a video post for alleged anti-Muslim hate speech.
Many comments stemmed from the perception that the RSU does not equally uphold its “zero tolerance” policy, and doesn’t take a stand against anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments to the same degree.
On Saturday, the RSU removed the option to post messages on their Facebook page.
The online tension follows an event on campus Thursday where Levant suggested Ryerson students take action and resist the RSU’s decision to join the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
He was invited by the Ryerson student group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) to speak about the RSU’s boycott against Israeli goods and services on campus, as well as university life for Jewish and pro-Israel students.
Levant argued the BDS movement is nothing more than a new name for “don’t buy from Jews.”
He also said the BDS movement is “begging” to be renamed the “boycott the Jews campaign.”
“I think the right answer to a ‘don’t buy from Jews campaign’ is to counter it, to oppose it, to debate it, to expose it, and to take political steps, to expose it.
“I know that the real purpose of a university students’ union is to tend to the needs of its students, that’s certainly the pretext upon which they extract student fees… If I was a Jewish or another pro-Israel student on campus, and had my money taken out of my pocket forcefully to go and pay for some anti-Semitic campaign, I would be furious,” Levant said.
The conservative media pundit also suggested hitting the university where it hurts — its pockets.
“I think you can embarrass the university,” Levant said. “Universities care about money more than you know, and I’m not talking about tuition. I’m talking about big donors. And the big donors in this town are Jewish.
“If you want to boycott the Jews, boycott the Jews, including your Jewish donors.”
Many attending saw Levant as an inspirational speaker.
Hadas Hait, the president of SSI at Ryerson and one of the organizers of the event, said that his words motivated a lot of students to get involved and not to be deterred by the problems many Jewish and pro-Israel students face on campus.
“I think that a lot of students now will feel comfortable to speak their minds and not shy away just because their country, or their religion, or their beliefs are being boycotted on campus,” she said.
But his speech was not well received by all.
Mohamed Zidane, a BDS supporter who studies economics at Ryerson, said he was shocked with the Islamophobia and anti-Arabism he witnessed at the event. Levant said he does not believe all ideas are equal, citing “Shari’a law in the case of the Islamic State” as an example of one of these ideas.
“I’m not surprised with what he said,” Zidane said. “He embraces the crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people.”
He said that he tried to be open-minded, but he was disturbed with Levant’s speech.
The BDS movement has raised tensions on campus, with Jewish and pro-Israel students saying that they feel they are being victimized.
Hait said that she has personally fallen victim to anti-semitism on campus.
“You can’t help but not feel that you need to watch where you are going, or look around for things that are happening because maps have been vandalized, I have been called different names, campus does not feel like the safest place.”
The BDS movement has supporters within the global Jewish and non-Jewish communities alike.
Among these include the Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) (IJV), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP), and Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The Ryerson group SJP released a written statement to the Ryersonian in reaction to Levant’s visit on campus.
“The BDS Movement is a non-violent, punitive movement initiated and led by Palestinians to end Israel’s persistent violations of international law and human rights,” the statement read. “The fact that the Israel group on campus is holding events about BDS only speaks to it’s success. As the SJP at Ryerson, we are committed to advancing BDS as an effective way of solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine.”