Source: Nick Mount/X

On Jan. 8, four peaceful activists involved in the pro-Palestine movement began trial for vandalizing the storefront of an Indigo bookstore at Bay and Bloor in Toronto. Along with seven others, these activists, now known as the “Peace 11,” splashed red paint and glued photographs of Indigo’s CEO, Heather Reisman, with the words “Funding Genocide” below her face on Nov. 10, 2023. In the following days, this group of activists, professors, and students were arrested, and their homes raided by Toronto police, with all the violence and bluster of a drug bust. They were then slapped with the trumped-up charges of conspiracy, mischief, and criminal harassment, which could land them in prison for up to 10 years—all for splashing some paint and putting up some posters. This charge is utterly ridiculous, and must be exposed by the entire movement as an attempt to intimidate and silence all those who stand against Israel’s crimes.

A ‘hate-motivated’ crime?

The anti-Indigo action occurred because Reisman herself is a Zionist who started, in 2005, the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, with her husband Gerry Schwartz. This foundation encourages foreign “lone soldiers” to enlist in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with financial incentives and scholarships. HESEG presents more than $3 million dollars yearly in scholarships in Israel as a result of their participation in the IDF. Over 6,000 soldiers are supported yearly by the HESEG Foundation. 

Since Oct. 7, 24,000-30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel, close to 60,000 wounded, and over 1.9 million people have been displaced. The Israeli state has made it clear that their intentions are to clear out all Palestinians in Gaza and resettle the area with an Israeli population. These brutal acts of ethnic cleansing are facilitated and perpetrated by the IDF, which Reisman’s foundation, and thus Indigo’s profits, directly finance, encourage, and support. Therefore, the Peace 11’s actions are well within the scope of peaceful civil disobedience.

Following the arrests of these activists, the bourgeois press in Canada began a cacophony of slander, smearing them as “antisemitic”. They claimed that Indigo was targeted merely because its CEO is Jewish, and not because of her active role in supporting an occupying military force. News reports claimed that the vandalism “intimidated” Jews; going so far as to draw comparisons to Kristallnacht, when Jewish owned businesses were attacked across Germany in 1938. This is in line with the standard accusations of antisemitism hurled against protesters, as if the only issue people have with the atrocities in Palestine is the fact that Israel is carrying them out. If anyone is to blame for Jewish people feeling intimidated by protesters, it’s the hysterical fear-mongering of the capitalist press, which insists that peaceful demonstrations are to be feared. Moreover, many members of the Jewish community in Toronto have spoken out against Reisman, and in fact, Lesley Wood, a York University professor arrested in relation to the action, is Jewish herself.

Some have wrung their hands over “damage to private property”. Lamenting over glue and paint when more than 7,000 Palestinians remain under the rubble of their own homes, bombed by Israel, is patently absurd. If someone is more angry that a multi-million dollar corporation had its own crimes slapped to its front doors than the ongoing brutality, occupation, and ethnic cleansing in Palestine, then they should, quite frankly, get a grip. 

Given the uproar in the press over “law and order”, it is ironic that HESEG itself is unlawfully recognized as a charitable organization. It violates Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act, which forbids the enticement of enlistment into a foreign military. But the law does not seem to apply to HESEG with the same force that it does to pro-Palestine protesters.

Reisman, Indigo, and HESEG are rightfully being criticized for their role in funding and supporting genocide, and the activists who vandalized the storefront should be defended for their legitimate act of protest. Since Oct. 7, protestors across Canada have been engaged in peaceful acts of disobedience and demonstrations against Israeli genocide, only to be met with slander, intimidation, harassment, and arrest. Brutal arrests have taken place, many have been victimized and fired by their employer, and even students at the universities have been threatened with expulsion or job loss for daring to speak out against the role of Canada in Israel’s genocidal interests. The case of the Peace 11 is clearly meant to send a message to the entire movement.

Imperialist hypocrisy

In her statement read out at a York University solidarity rally last year, Lesley Wood stated that, at 5:30am on Wednesday, Nov. 22, a raid of armed police officers broke down her door and dragged her and her partner out of bed, before searching their home and arresting them. What is violence, if not this? What is hate, if not this? Peaceful activists are falsely accused of crimes for slapping some paint and glue on a building, protesting against a very real genocide, yet the police, who commit real violence, are seen as carrying out justice? 

The hypocrisy of the state stands out all the clearer when one considers the approach taken towards the far-right; for example the white nationalist group Atalante, who stormed the Montreal office of Vice Media in May 2018. In this incident, Atalante harassed and intimidated employees, damaged documents, and dumped garbage around the office. At the original trial in 2020, Raphaël Levesque, former leader of Atalante was initially acquitted of all charges; however, eventually the Quebec courts walked back on this decision, bringing him back to trial. As of 2023, Levesque left the courts with a sentence that will leave him without even a criminal record, if he successfully completes his probation. Atalante is an extremely hate motivated, self-described “neo-fascist” organization which has organized anti-immigration rallies, attempted to rile up hatred against asylum seekers, and generally spouts wildly racist rhetoric about “white genocide”. 

The hypocrisy of the Canadian state is clear with these two contrasting examples. The far-right gets acquitted, and the left gets vilified. Those who oppose genocide are labelled hate-motivated and those who violently intimidate journalists are let free without even a record. The Peace 11 could face 10 years in prison for the crime of… gluing paper to a window and pointing out objective facts about Reisman’s finances? This is shameful, and to reference Wood’s statement, deeply grotesque and Orwellian. The movement must not back down in the face of state repression.

Solidarity with the Peace 11!

“Law and order” is only a facade for the maintenance of the status quo imperialist order, and with the arrests of the Peace 11, becomes utterly exposed. We should all be horrified, stricken, disgusted, and angry. If protest is unacceptable to the Canadian ruling class, then what is acceptable? The over-100 day constant bombings of Palestinians, apparently.

Communist Revolution stands in solidarity with those arrested, and condemns Indigo for its continued support for the state of Israel and its armed forces. We demand an end to the bombing of Gaza, the occupation, and will work towards an end to the Zionist regime in Israel through a revolutionary wave across the Middle East, and at home, to bring down imperialism, from Canada to Israel!