Toronto Police Arrest Palestine Activists, Should Target Heather Reisman

Aggressive pre-dawn police raids on homes and charging individuals with hate crimes for posting social justice messages is legal overreach at best and “thought crimes” reflecting creeping fascism at worst.

Truth is Heather Reisman, not those putting up posters, is the one who should have been charged with breaking Canadian law.

Between 4:30 and 6 am Wednesday Toronto police raided the residences of seven individuals alleged to have been involved in putting posters and fake blood on an Indigo bookstore on November 10. According to a summary of the police operation posted by World Beyond War, eight or more officers participated in each raid. Police knocked and quickly burst through doors, often without properly identifying themselves. All residents in the houses were handcuffed, including some elderly family members and parents in view of their children. Doors were broken and the police confiscated laptops and cellphones, including some provided by employers. Some of those charged were kept handcuffed in the back of police cars for hours.

This large, coordinated, police operation was a response to political messages put on an Indigo storefront downtown. The posters were photos of the book store’s high-profile CEO Heather Reisman with the statement “Funding Genocide”. Store staff removed the posters and fake blood with little difficulty.

The political stunt was a response to Reisman and her billionaire husband donating around $100 million to a charity they established to assist non-Israelis join that country’s military. Those promoting Israel’s genocide in Gaza panicked. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO Michael Leavitt posted: “An absolutely appalling antisemitic attack in downtown Toronto, targeting Chapters Indigo and Jewish CEO Heather Reisman.” While the media largely echoed Leavitt’s perspective, a few outlets at least offered context on why Reisman was targeted.

In 2005 Reisman and her husband established the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel.” Heseg Foundation provides scholarships and other forms of support to Torontonians, New Yorkers and other non-Israelis (Lone Soldiers) who join the IDF. For the IDF high command — the Heseg board has included a handful of top military officials — “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to pressure/reassure Israelis weary of their country’s violent behaviour. At the first Heseg Foundation Grants Awards Ceremony in 2005 Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said that “Encouraging and supporting young individuals from abroad” to become lone soldiers “directly supports the morale of the IDF”.

After the IDF killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza during operation Cast Lead in 2009 Heseg delivered $160,000 in gifts to IDF soldiers who took part in the violence.

More recently, Heseg has funded scholarships for members of the Duvdevan, an undercover commando unit known for disguising itself and blending in with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories to carry out operations. The Duvdevan scholarships are partly based on “excellence during army service”, which likely means kidnapping or killing Palestinians.

HESEG’s operations almost certainly violate Canada Revenue Agency rules for registered charities. CRA rules state that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Despite CRA rules, Reisman and Schwartz have received tens of millions of dollars in tax credits for donations to their charity. This abuse of the public purse is far more dubious than placing posters on a storefront to raise awareness of a wealthy individual’s assistance to a murderous foreign military.

While the social cost of taxpayers illegally subsidizing Reisman’s charity are much greater than anything people putting up posters did, at least Toronto police can rightfully claim that they don’t have jurisdiction over a matter the CRA is responsible for. But HESEG’s role in inducing Canadians to join the Israeli military may violate Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act, which the Toronto police should enforceAccording to the act, “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

So, can we expect an upcoming early morning police raid on Heather Reisman’s Rosedale mansion handcuffing everyone, taking her personal devices and detaining her for inducing people to join a foreign military that has just killed 15,000 human beings in Gaza?

Only if Canada was indeed a state that upheld the rule of law, equally for all.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.