When Robert Walker , National Director for Hasbara Fellowships Canada, was invited to speak to students at the University of Waterloo about the Canada-Israel relationship and the BDS movement at Canadian Universities ,he was “eagerly” looking forward to the talk.
About two minutes into his talk, a group of about 10 anti Israel provocateurs barged in. “They began screaming that Israel was an apartheid state that murders babies and takes land and began anti Israel chants,” he said. “I was even called a “Jewish supremacist” and a propagandist for Israel.”
He suggested they stop “heckling” till the end the talk and “forcefully engaged their claims on Arab refugees and Jerusalem.” But they were not interested in discussion only in disruption and were escorted out of the room by the organizers.
Walker completed his presentation to the mostly non Jewish students. “We had nearly two hours of practical and constructive discussion”.
This is not the first time Walker has fought back and prevailed. In March of 2016, The Student Association at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT0 in Oshawa, rejected the request of Hasbara Fellowships Canada of a table to present their Israel Peace Week materials, during Social Justice Week. The reason given said Walker, was that ” we seem closely tied to the to the State of Israel.” Hasbara is a student based pro Israel advocacy organization.
An Oshawa Against Israeli Apartheid five hour event was included in the Social Justice Week. The group, Students for Justice Palestine, hosted an art show which illustrated “what is being done to combat the illegal occupation of Palestine”.
In response to being barred from campus activities, Hasbara filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario stated they were seeking $50,000 in damages , a formal apology and invitation back to the campus.
Walker says the settlement was handled confidentially between the two parties and the student association posted the following public apology on its website.
“The SA (Student Association) deeply regrets the decision made to deny Mr. Walker and Hasbara the opportunity to participate in Social Justice Week. The SA sincerely apologized to Mr. Walker and Hasbara. The SA aims to promote healthy debate on campus and rejects discrimination of any kind, including against Israeli students or community members. We welcome Mr. Walker and Hasbara’s participation at a future multicultural event on campus.”
Walkers response: “We welcomed the statement by the student association welcoming us back and we intend to be involved with students moving forward.”