By Jake Scott
Controversial media personality Ezra Levant was at Ryerson Thursday to speak on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign and about life for pro-Israel students on campus.
Levant was invited by campus group Students Supporting Israel (SSI) and ended up speaking about much more than just the BDS — a campaign that the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) voted on joining last April.
During the opening of Levant’s presentation, SSI president Hadas Hait read the RSU equity statement — which is required to be “read aloud during the opening address of all meetings and events,” according to the union’s policy manual. The statement says that, “hate speech rooted in, but not limited to, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, anti-Semitic” will not be tolerated, and ends by asking the speaker if they agree.
Levant replied, “no,” prompting laughs from the audience. He went on to describe the statement as an “Orwellian command.”
“I believe in the freedom of speech, I even believe in the right to be racist or anti-semitic,” Levant told The Eyeopener after his speech.
Levant told the audience that he believes the BDS movement is a fundamentally racist approach and goes against what a student union should stand for.
“I think it’s disconcerting that they would think that they have a mandate to engage in anti-semitism for some foreign policy theme,” he said. “The real purpose of a students’ union is to attend to the needs of the students, which is the pretext with which they extract their fees, which is a way of saying student taxes.”
Levant also offered the room anecdotes on attempts at neutrality in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
“It is not appropriate to say, ‘ Well, between the fire and the fireman, I want to be neutral. The police and the robbers both have guns. Can we split the difference?’” Levant said. “I think some politically correct folks would like to say ‘can we split the difference between good and evil in the Middle East?’”
Levant also congratulated attendees for coming to the event.
“Pro-Israel voices are often outnumbered by pro-Hamas, pro-terrorist voices — simply because of the changing demographics in Canada,” said Levant.
His speech was well received, with the exception of one student.
“I was shocked and disappointed when I saw the level of hate in that room,” said Mohamed Zidane, a Ryerson student. “I definitely support the RSU, and I’m proud to be part of the RSU.”