York University students speaking at Tuesday’s walkout. A student speaks at a microphone while another in the background holds up a sign that reads: "York University, Toronto Police, stop your nonsense."
York University students speaking at Tuesday’s walkout. Credit: Rising Tide Toronto / X Credit: Rising Tide Toronto / X

Members of York University’s faculty and student body staged a walkout on Tuesday, November 28 in solidarity with three university employees who were suspended with pay for allegedly defacing an Indigo bookstore in Toronto.

Protests this month took place at Indigo bookstores across the country in response to company CEO Heather Reisman’s HESEG Foundation. Heseg is the Hebrew word for achievement.

The foundation provides scholarships to foreign soldiers who serve in the Israeli Defense Forces and who choose to remain in Israel after their term of service.

This program has been criticized not only for supporting militarism, but also for recruiting Canadian citizens into the service of a foreign military, something which is illegal under Canadian law and a violation of the Foreign Enlistment Act.

WATCH: Off the Hill: Media accountability and covering Gaza (FULL VIDEO)

Posters were put up on the bookstore’s building and red paint was also splashed on the building. The protest on November 14 saw 11 people charged, including the three York University employees.

Protesting slaughter

York University professor Lesley Wood and two other colleagues were suspended for their alleged participation in the protest against Indigo.

Wood said that the protest was about attempting to put a permanent end to the violence between Israel’s government and Palestinians.

On October 7 Hamas, the organization that runs the Palestinian territory of the Gaza strip conducted a terrorist attack on Israeli civilians, killing 1,400 and taking hundreds of hostages.

In response, the Israeli government blockaded Gaza, cutting off food, water, energy, and medical supplies and began a bombing campaign that killed over 13,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

LISTEN: Gaza: Humanitarian agencies call for a ceasefire now

Both sides in the conflict have been observing a ceasefire since Thursday, November 23 as hostages are exchanged by both parties.

University accused of silencing dissent

During the walkout on Tuesday, students and faculty expressed their outrage that the university would suspend members of their community for engaging in peaceful protest.

Faculty will not be silenced for supporting Palestinians and demanding a ceasefire in Gaza. There are dangerous accusations of antisemitism to attack Palestinian solidarity and peace activists, that hamper efforts to stop genuine antisemitism, as well as anti-Palestinian racism, Islamophobia and other racism Support for peace and Palestinian solidarity must not be criminalized,” York faculty member Steve Tufts wrote in an email to rabble.ca.

Tufts compared the culture of suppression against those speaking out for Palestine to the anti-communist witch hunts engaged by US Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.

“We need to ask why there is no presumption of innocence by York admin? The suspension of faculty and staff creates a chilling effect where it impacts academic freedom and freedom of speech,” Tufts added.

York University has not issued a statement on the walkout or on the suspension of the faculty members.

Editor’s Note: This story originally stated that Anna Zalik was one of the faculty members who was suspended. This was incorrect. As well Lesley Wood was not at Tuesday’s protest. rabble regrets the error.

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Nick Seebruch

Nick Seebruch has been the editor of rabble.ca since April 2022. He believes that fearless independent journalism is key for the survival of a healthy democracy. An OCNA award-winning journalist, for...