A Canadian rabbi was arrested for vandalism over the weekend after splattering red paint across the steps of the Israeli consulate in Toronto during a Friday protest held only hours after a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel came into effect, ending nearly two weeks of fighting.
69-year-old David Mivasair of Hamilton, Ontario, was detained by police on Saturday and charged with mischief under $5,000, which leaves him potentially liable to a jail sentence of up to two years.
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An ordained Reconstructionist rabbi, Mivasair is a vocal member of Independent Jewish Voices, which organized Friday’s protest and which endorses the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel as part of its mission to “amplify the voices of Canadian Jews in support of justice in Israel-Palestine and at home.”
The group has accused Israel of ethnically cleansing Jerusalem and accused mainstream Jewish communal groups like B’nai Brith Canada of purposefully publishing “misleading” antisemitism statistics.
“We’re here to be sure that the blood on the hands of Israel is visible, so we’ve put this symbol of blood coming out of the door so no one can go into these offices of the Israeli government right here in Canada without seeing what Israel is about. We’ve made it visible,” Mivasair said in a video posted on the Facebook page of the activist group World Beyond War.
“We invite everyone to join us in changing Canada’s complicity with Israel’s crimes,” he declared, holding a sign bearing the Biblical verse “your brother’s blood cries to me from the earth.”
Speaking with Canada’s CTV News, Mivasair charged that despite Friday morning’s ceasefire, “injustice and oppression” had not been ended and Palestinians continued to live “under pervasive deprivation, domination and Israeli oppression.”
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Responding to the protest, Israeli Consul General Galit Baram stated that “provocative acts of vandalism such as (this) are counter-productive and do not contribute to any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the Canadian Jewish News reported.
This is not the first time that Mivasair was gotten into legal hot water for his activism. In 2019, he was one of 17 people detained by the IDF while taking part in what Independent Jewish Voices described as a “project to rehabilitate a crucial access road for Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills.”
He later told Canadian media that IDF troops had informed him that he was trespassing in a “closed military zone.”
Beyond his criticism of Israel, Mivasair has also lambasted Jewish organizations, media outlets and the media for condemning the recent global rise in antisemitic incidents following the latest round of violence in Israel.
“Do any mainstream media still give credibility to the Zionist thought police when they attempt to distract from Israel's murder machine in this way,” he asked on Twitter on Wednesday, linking to a tweet by Canada’s Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs, thanking politicians for speaking out on the issue.
Antisemitic incidents have surged in recent weeks, with the U.S.-based Secure Community Network reporting an 80 percent increase in incidents in May and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordering state police to reinforce security at Jewish institution in the wake of a series of violent attacks.
Last Wednesday, the Community Security Trust, a Jewish watchdog organization in the U.K., reported that it had recorded 116 antisemitic incidents since May 8 and on May 11, the Central Council of Jews in Germany urged Berlin to increase security after flags were burned outside two synagogues.
Writing in the National Post on Tuesday, B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn called the violence “a wake-up call for Canadian Jewry,” stating that there is “a palpable fear from within our community that Jewish life here is becoming unsafe.”
“Across the country, Jews have been bombarded with online hate, and Orthodox Jews observing the recent Shavuot holiday were followed and harassed by vehicles with Palestinian flags while walking around their own neighborhoods, where they are supposed to feel safe,” he wrote.
“If things continue this way, it is only a matter of time before a Canadian Jew is seriously injured, or worse, by an anti-Israel attacker.”