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Pro-Israel activists rally in Toronto, organized by Canadian Women Against Antisemitism

Speakers, including officials, told stories of verbal harassment and outright physical assault.

Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park in Toronto, Canada, on Aug. 9, 2023. Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock.
Ontario Legislative Building at Queen's Park in Toronto, Canada, on Aug. 9, 2023. Credit: JHVEPhoto/Shutterstock.

More than a dozen speakers, including students, recounted their personal stories about antisemitic incidents to a crowd that was described as ranging from the hundreds to the thousands at Queen’s Park in downtown Toronto on Sunday afternoon.

At the event organized by Canadian Women Against Antisemitism (CWAA), demonstrators waved pink flags (and clutched a lot of pink phones) that featured white doves holding a Magen David, or Star of David.

Member of Parliament for Thornhill Melissa Lantsman, who is Jewish, openly gay and belongs to the Conservative Party of Canada, attended along with other officials.

Deborah Lyons, a longtime diplomat who currently serves as Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism, said from a podium that “while attending a vote in the House of Commons, my own chief of staff, along with a few other women, were harassed on Parliament Hill by people chanting ‘All Zionists are racists,’” reported The Canadian Jewish News.

She told those gathered on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which began the evening of March 23 and ended at nightfall on March 24: “This is our Esther and Mordechai moment. This is our moment to use the power of our voices.”

The National Post wrote that Lyons said, “This is a very serious time for Canada. I consider it to be a bit of a crisis time for our democracy, for our national security, and for our Canadian values and what we believe in as Canadians to protect and support one another.”

Olga Lefel Goldberg, who helped found CWAA, recounted that on Oct. 29, she was assaulted near the very park she was in on Sunday while leaving another pro-Israel rally. She said a flag and other materials were ripped from her hands, and that she was punched in the face.

“Canada failed to protect me. Canada is failing to protect you,” she said, looking out at the large gathering of women—and a good number of men—according to the Jewish News.

One Jewish student, a gender studies major, said she dropped out of her final year at the University of Ottawa after repeated death threats following activism on campus. 

Another student, Laura Barkel, who attends Toronto Metropolitan University, said “I have been physically assaulted, verbally assaulted, hit with objects and by people’s fists. I’ve received death threats, threats of sexual assault and threats to my family.”

Speaking to the Post, she said one student had told her, “Too bad Hitler didn’t finish his job, or you disgusting Zionists wouldn’t be alive today.”

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