York University suspends pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian groups following protest

Pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel protesters clash at York University in Toronto on Nov. 20. (Alex Rose/The CJN)

York University has suspended the local chapters of Herut Canada and Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), pending an investigation into the events of Nov. 20, when SAIA organized a protest against a Herut event that brought IDF reservists to campus.

The protests turned ugly when pro-Israeli counter-protesters showed up and clashed with the SAIA-led protest.

York first notified Herut about its decision on Dec. 3, when it sent a letter saying that after a “preliminary internal review,” the school has decided that “a more immediate intervention is needed” with both suspended groups, to avoid “a further escalation that has the potential to significantly impact the safety of all members of the York community.”

The suspension means the clubs’ privileges have been withdrawn, including the ability to reserve rooms and put up tables and posters around campus.

“We did not make this decision lightly, but we recognize the holding of certain events at this time could lead to further tensions. We have invited both Herut Zionism and SAIA to participate in a facilitated mediation that would establish mutually agreed upon processes for future events. We are confident that if a mutually agreed upon mediated agreement can be reached, we will be able to restore the withdrawn privileges,” York spokesperson Yanni Dagonas told The CJN.

Lauren Isaacs, the Toronto director of Herut Canada, said the decision is “unacceptable” and that club is crafting a response with its lawyers.

In a follow-up letter to the president of York University, Isaacs argued that, “Your administration has now handed SAIA exactly what it wanted i.e., to silence pro-Israel voices on campus. You have treated the victim the same as her attacker. The result is neither fair nor even-handed. In fact, it is arbitrary and perverse.”

Isaacs went on to argue that Herut “cannot be held (responsible) for the conduct of any protesters or the security plan that was implemented.”

According to the York student newspaper Excalibur, SAIA has been suspended twice before, in 2009 and 2013.