Dismantle The University Of Toronto Palestinian Encampment

The vociferous anti-Israel protesters who have illegally occupied a considerable expanse of land at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle are determined to flout the law come what may.

Last week, the university issued trespass notices ordering hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators to pack up their tents and leave their encampment, which is filled with Palestinian flags and surrounded by a chain link fence plastered with expressive posters and drawings.

The protesters blithely ignored the notices, knowing full well they can be liable for fines up to $10,000 each. They intend to stay where they are until their demands are met through negotiations with the university.

The Palestinian encampment at the University of Toronto

Proceeding from the erroneous assumption that Israel has committed genocide in its war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, they insist that the university  should disclose its public investments, divest from companies that have ties with the Israeli armed forces or Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and sever academic relations with major universities such as the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa.

Calls for divestment from Israel

“We’ll continue negotiations until our demands are met,” said Erin Mackey, a fourth-year student and an encampment representative. “We have no choice other than to continue negotiations to ensure that the university is no longer complicit in genocide. Having been threatened by the university with academic sanctions, including suspension and expulsion, having been threatened with arrest and police violence — despite all of this, despite all these threats being made, we remain.”

The protesters’ demand

Stymied by their incalcitrance, the university’s president, Meric Gertler, sought an injunction authorizing the police to arrest the trespassers before convocation ceremonies are scheduled to take place at King’s College Circle on June 3.

Until now, the police have chosen not to remove the protesters because they are awaiting a court order.

And herein lies a problem that should never have arisen in the first place.

The judge in charge of the case, Markus Koehnen, has not granted an immediate injunction, as the university had hoped, due to the volume of material submitted by both sides. Instead, hearing dates have been set for June 19 and 20.

The encampment is on private property

“I appreciate that those hearing dates do not accommodate the university’s interest in having the issue resolved before graduation ceremonies are over,” he wrote. “In my view, however, that is the earliest that the hearing can be held in order to afford the respondents a fair opportunity to answer the application.”

The judge has bent over backwards to be fair, but he misses the point.

The protesters clearly broke the law by setting up an encampment on private property, as have other pro-Palestinian activists on campuses across Canada and the United States. And now they are grossly interfering with the university’s convocation, a sacrosanct rite of passage for students.

Palestinian slogans

In its submission to the court, the university correctly argued that “freedom of speech and freedom of association for all members of the university community have been limited by the encampment.” An injunction was necessary “to restore the university’s ability to preserve the space … for respectful discourse and debate,” the university added.

Gertler noted that the encampment is polarizing inasmuch as it has placed “tremendous stress on our entire community” and poses a safety risk.

Furthermore, the encampment has intimidated some Jewish students in light of the protesters’ support of Hamas as a legitimate “resistance” organization, their implicit or explicit advocacy of Israel’s destruction, and their full throated endorsement of a one-state solution.

Anti-Zionist Jewish support for the Palestinians

Appearing before the House of Commons several days ago, Gertler admitted that “antisemitism has been a growing presence recently in our university.”

Some 60 University of Toronto professors have expressed support for the encampment, as have the leaders of United Steelworkers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, and the Ontario Federation of Labor.

Farther afield, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has  praised university students who join encampments. In an open letter on the social media platform X on May 25, he congratulated students for having joined forces with the Axis of Resistance, an anti-Western alliance consisting of Iran, Syria, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, the Houthis of Yemen and the Islamic Resistance movement in Iraq.

The protesters appear to have little support among Canadians, judging by a poll conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies. Only 19 per cent of Canadians are supportive of university encampments, though 21 percent and 25 percent of respondents in Toronto and Vancouver respectively endorse the objectives of the protesters.

This much should be clear at the end of the day.

The protesters have embraced an ideologically genocidal agenda that calls for nothing less than Israel’s demise. Their incendiary slogan, “From the River To The Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,” is not merely aspirational, but represents a long-range strategic goal to annihilate an internationally-recognized state.

The end game for Palestinians in the encampment

In the quest to promote their cause, the Palestinians and their supporters have been extremely aggressive and intrusive. Some have gone as far as daubing archly political slogans on commercial signage throughout Toronto. Walking along St. Clair Avenue West recently, I spied the words Free Gaza, in red paint, on a sign advertising a new condominium building.

Free Gaza slogan on a condo advertisement in Toronto

The “free Palestine” crowd is intrinsically aligned with Hamas. They intentionally ignore, dismiss or minimize the Jewish people’s rightful historic connection to Israel, which stretches back centuries. In disregarding this historical record, they have deliberately associated themselves with the most reactionary elements in the Middle East.

The Palestinians are being led astray by extremists in their ranks who do not know the meaning of compromise. Yet the Palestinian people do deserve the prize and dignity of statehood within the framework of a two-state solution negotiated by a realistic Israeli government and pragmatic Palestinians who believe in coexistence and peace rather than jihad.

Alas, the protesters in encampments stand for the exact opposite.

Under no circumstances should the University of Toronto accept their outrageous demands, which are expressly designed to undermine and destroy Israel.

The sooner the encampment is dismantled, the better off the university and all its students will be.