Jewish groups are expressing alarm over a recent spate of anti-Zionist graffiti in and around Toronto.
The boldly-worded messages, signed by the far-left Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM) and embellished with a communist-era hammer and sickle, have been appearing since late last month.
The latest vandalism started around “Land Day” – March 30 – on which Palestinians annually commemorate a surge in their resistance to Israel’s seizure of land in 1976.
Other acts overlapped with Passover.
On March 31, B’nai Brith Canada reported graffiti on the side of a Toronto Transit Commission entrance in the Yonge Street-Finch Avenue area.
“Anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism,” the graffiti read. “Oppose IHRA.” Included was the hashtag “#NoIHRA,” referring to the widely adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism.
On April 2, a Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre staffer spotted graffiti that read “Zionism is a paper tiger!” in the Bathurst Street-Cedarcroft Boulevard area of Toronto.
Over last weekend, the RSM “dramatically escalated its attacks,” said a B’nai Brith press release, “tagging a slew of other locations in the vicinity.”
That included a branch of the CIBC on Yonge Street, just north of Steeles Avenue in Thornhill. The bank’s exterior wall was defaced to read: “Freedom for Ahmad Sa’adat! Death to Zionism!”
B’nai Brith pointed out that Sa’adat is general-secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terrorist group in Canada, and is currently serving a 30-year sentence in an Israeli prison for ordering the murder of civilians.
In a statement to The CJN, the CIBC said it “condemns in the strongest terms any act of hate and racism.” In this case, the branch “immediately” notified police and the building owner, and worked to have the graffiti removed, said spokesperson Trish Tervit.
The RSM calls itself a “Canada-wide revolutionary, combative, militant, and anti-capitalist student movement” that is “guided by communist principles.” It has a chapter at the University of Toronto.
The group has in the past plastered light standards and utility boxes with its posters. Spray-painted messages of revolution have been found on dumpsters and fences.
The organization said it has targeted areas around high schools to turn them into “trenches of combat for the revolution. It is up to us to forge the next generation of fighters for the working class.”
In past tweets and messages, the RSM said it is guided by “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism–Gonzalo thought.”
B’nai Brith pointed out that “Gonzalo” refers to Abimael Guzman, who led a brutal Maoist insurgency in Peru, the Sendero Luminoso (“Shining Path”), which is also a designated terrorist entity in Canada.
“Due to popular demand from Zionist Twitter, here is more street art in support of the mighty Palestinian people’s fight against imperialism & Zionism,” the RSM’s Toronto branch tweeted on April 3.
Other posted examples were messages saying “Canada and Israel are guilty of genocide”: “Smash the Israeli and Canadian states;” and “Smash imperialism and Zionism with people’s war.”
An apartment building on Bathurst Street, just south of Steeles Avenue was also defaced.
“Harassing a Jewish community’s neighbourhood with hostile messages is clearly anti-Semitic,” Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith, said in a written statement. “Neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on anti-Semitism, and no excuses should ever be made for it.”
The acts of vandalism are “troubling and ominous and clearly an effort to intimidate members of the Jewish community in areas where they live, work and play,” stated Michael Levitt, CEO of FSWC. “We expect this group to be held to account for the property damage it has committed, not to mention for the disturbing anti-Semitic messages it has promoted.”
The graffiti from the RSM seem to open a new front in local attacks against Jews and Israel. Neither B’nai Brith nor FSWC had heard of the group prior to the latest round of incidents. Neither has the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
The graffiti are “unquestionably inflammatory and for the many in the Jewish community who identify and support Zionism, can also be seen as threatening,” said Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. “There are many ways to express opposition in society (but) provoking and instilling fear is unnecessary.”
The Jewish advocacy groups said the incidents were reported to Toronto police.