A refugee from a war-torn country is used to seeing all parts of their homeland become a battleground. Streets. Apartments. Football fields. Even the historic Krak de Chaveliers castle near my native Homs in Syria was fought over by opposing sides in the Syrian civil war. After landing in Canada, however, I hadn’t expected my new country’s universities to be arenas for ideological mobs to shout down and denounce their opponents.
When I made my way up to York University this month on the evening of the 20th, I was blissfully unaware of the university’s status as a hotbed of “anti-Zionist” activism.” I had only arrived in Canada in two years ago through the Refugee Resettlement Program and, still eager to explore, was taking my first trip up to York. I planned to attend an event being held by Herut Canada, who were hosting five members of the Israeli NGO “Reservists on Duty” an organization of Israeli military veterans who travel the world and hold talks and events to “counter the BDS movement and new forms of anti-Semitism erupting on US college campuses.”
I was looking forward to meeting with the Israeli veterans. Such meetings were frowned upon back in Syria—as in, land one in jail kind of frowned upon. Canada was the one truly safe place I had ever lived where a Syrian might meet Israelis without suffering any consequences.