Toronto’s reputation as a breeding ground for anti-Muslim hate just got worse

And it's the far-right Jewish Defence League leading the descent into paranoia as more hate crimes charges are laid against the Toronto group's members



Toronto’s reputation as a hotbed of anti-Muslim incitement continues to grow after a U.S. federal district court in Washington, DC formally handed down hate crimes charges against a member of the Toronto-based Jewish Defence League (JDL) last month.

Yosef Steynowitz of Thornhill, was charged with assaulting Kamal Nayfeh, a technical instructor at a North Carolina college, and graduate student Ben Doernberg with wooden poles and repeated kicks during pro-Palestinian protests at last year’s AIPAC conference in DC. Nayfeh’s bloodied face required nine stiches. The assault against Doernberg caused a concussion. Rami Lubranicki, an American member of JDL, was also charged along with Steynowitz.

The indictment, reads in part, that Steynovitz, “having readily available dangerous and deadly weapons… unlawfully assaulted and threatened Kamal Nayfeh in a menacing manner and intentionally, knowingly, and recklessly caused significant bodily injury.”

The document goes on to state that “such criminal act demonstrated the prejudice of Yosef Steynovitz based on the actual or perceived race, color, or national origin of Kamal Nayfeh.”

At the time, JDL chief Meir Weinstein alleged that the victims had been the ones who insulted and assaulted JDL members, who had acted in self-defense.

“They found out,” says Weinstein in a video posted online shortly after the incident, “that it’s not wise to lay not even a finger on any of us. Anyone who’s going to try and raise a fist to us, push us and assault us, we would be glad to enforce a citizen’s arrest when there’s some semblance of cooperation from the aggressor. Unfortunately, we had to resort to a certain level of force, and we made it very clear the days of Jews being attacked and being docile are long over.”

There is no evidence, however, that Nayfeh or Doernberg engaged in any acts of violence. The charges against Steynovitz are the latest in a string of incidents involving the Toronto-based group, which has been at the forefront of anti-Muslim protests in the GTA.

Last month, JDL hosted a speech by notorious U.S. blogger and Islamophobe, Pamela Geller.

Local activists had asked the Canadian government to bar Geller from entering the country citing her incendiary musings on Islam and the fact Britain had prohibited a planned visit in 2013 based on her anti-Muslim pronouncements. But her speech at Canada Christian College, a fundraising event for JDL, went ahead amid protests outside. According to the Quebec-based antifa Groupe de recherche sur l’extrême droite et ses allié-e-s, security at the event was provided by members of a number of far-right groups.

Rebel Media “Commander” Ezra Levant, joined Geller on stage after her address for a question and answer period. Video of their exchange is featured on the website of Kevin Johnston, another among the cadre of local Islamophobes in JDL’s militant orbit. Johnston, who has been a fixture at anti-Muslim protests in the GTA, was charged with wilful promotion of hate in July “over information published on various social media sites,” according to police.

Yet, JDL continues to be given a platform in conservative circles. Weinstein, for example, took part in Toronto Councillor James Pasternak’s “administrative inquiry” at City Hall into “a growing trend of hate-infested rallies being held in public spaces” – namely, the annual Al Quds Day rally sponsored by Queers Against Israeli Apartheid at Queen’s Park, which had allegedly included chants that were “anti-Semitic and anti-Christian” in the past.

Meanwhile, at a City Hall rally in May to protest the federal government’s anti-Islamophobia Motion M-103, members of the JDL physically attacked journalist and activist Kevin Metcalf, as Metcalf filmed the protest. In the video, JDL members can be heard telling Metcalf, “We’re not fucking around here. You’re going to get killed.” JDL member Max Bocknek has been charged with assault by Toronto police.

In other developments, Twitter has suspended the JDL’s account and Facebook suspended the group’s profile page for the second time in less than a year in November. Facebook cited its community standards provisions prohibiting “dangerous organizations” engaged in “terrorist activity, organized violence or criminal activity, mass or serial murders or organized hate groups” for its decision. 

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