Attacks by peaceniks shake Jewish students in Toronto

TORONTO — Some protesters here in favor of a peaceful resolution of the conflict with Iraq didn't practice what they preach this week.

Several Jewish students at Toronto's York University were intimidated and roughed up Wednesday by anti-war protesters.

Violating a previous agreement with university authorities, protesters blocked two entrances into the university. Normally, some 35,000 vehicles drive onto campus daily.

After police arrested four of the protesters, more than 100 others rushed through campus and occupied the office of university President Lorna Marsden.

Along the way they overturned the tables of the pro-American Canadian Alliance party and, according to student Ya'akov Rath, pushed him to the ground.

Rath, who is campus president of Canadian Alliance, said he was attacked because he was "visibly Jewish." He added that the protesters tried to burn the booth's U.S. flag.

Miriam Levin, a second-year student in York's Jewish studies program, says she suffered verbal abuse from demonstrators who blocked her car from entering campus.

"I just rolled down my window and said, 'Making me late to class isn't going to help your cause,' and some guy started screaming at me that I was like the [Israeli army] and that I was like an occupier and a terrorist," she said.

Only later did Levin, who is active in several Jewish campus organizations, realize she had been identified as Jewish because of the tiny Stars of David in her earrings.

Shaken by the encounter, she went with a friend to report the incident to Marsden, not realizing that Marsden's office had been occupied.

Stepping from the elevator, Levin and her friend, Hannah Wortzman, found themselves surrounded by some 100 protesters.

"They surrounded us and started swearing at us and harassing us," Wortzman said. "I said to Miriam, 'Let's just get out of here.' But they were blocking the stairwell and the elevator."

After Levin started taking photographs with a disposable camera, a young woman began pushing her and grabbing for the camera.

Levin called for help but no one intervened, not even a nearby security guard.

Wortzman, meanwhile, dialed 911 on her cell phone.

Eventually the security guard helped them leave, and police filed charges against Levin's assailant.

"I was petrified," Wortzman said. "I thought they were going to beat me up. I'm petrified right now. I'm afraid to go to school.

"As we were talking to the police, some of the students were giving us a look as if to say, 'We're going to get you,'" she said. "It was a scary situation we were in."

Levin also called the experience traumatic.

"The thing that really bothered me was that we just came to the floor to speak to the president," she said. "It had nothing to do with Israel or the war or anything. It was just that we were Jewish, and they had recognized us."

These events come a month after pro-Palestinian students attempted to block pro-Israel academic Daniel Pipes from speaking at York.

It also follows several incidents at Montreal's Concordia University last fall, when pro-Palestinian rioters forced the cancellation of a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Several days later, a visibly Jewish student was beaten up on campus by an Arab student.

Many students and academics claim that the climate on Canadian campuses has become so antagonistic to Israel and Jews that they are afraid to speak their minds.