Knife-Wielding Man At Pro-Palestine Protest Member of JDL-Linked Motorcycle Club

The Riders of the Covenant say they have no affiliation with the Jewish Defence League despite repeatedly boosting them on social media and multiple shared events.

Peter Smith
Canadian Anti-Hate Network



A man caught in footage of a violent altercation between members of the JDL, an FBI-designated anti-Arab terror group, and pro-Palestinian protesters appears to be a member of a motorcycle club whose president denies has connections to the JDL. 

While initially reported as the victim of an attack that brought condemnation from both Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, a video found by online activists shows the man wielding a club during the altercation and pulling and slashing at others with a knife during the fracas. 

The individual in question is Greg Nisan, an Ontario man who appears to live in or around Toronto and owns a USA-Canada transport company. He is a member of the Riders of the Covenant, a pro-Israel MC. Like many clubs, the group appears to engage in regular charity rides and community service in conjunction with its political activism. Despite ROC and the JDL attending each others’ events, the club denies any links. 

Uri Kronenblut, who identified himself as ROC’s president, said that there was “absolutely not” any affiliation between his organization and the JDL. 

“The only cross-over is that we are a Zionist organization and that they claim to be as well," he told the Canadian Anti-Hate Network over the phone. “From my perspective, they’re a little bit more militant than we are, we’re just political, not militant at all.”

Nisan was not able to be reached for comment, but Kronenblut said he has spoken to the man since the incident, and that Nisan saw a “fellow Jew in trouble,” and came to help. 

This is similar to the telling Nisan gave the Canadian Jewish News on the day of the event, where he claimed to have seen a man wearing a black-and-yellow JDL T-shirt being attacked.

“I pushed some guys. I tried to stop them. But they started hitting me so I started hitting back,” he is quoted as saying. 

Nisan, who pulled both a club and a knife on the pro-Palestinian demonstrators, is further quoted as saying “I didn’t go there to fight. We went to talk.”

ROC was founded by a group of motorcycle riders to “protect the Judeo-Christian way of living,” according to its Facebook page. The club also incorporates a patch bearing the Arabic and English word for “infidel” on their cuts, commonly found in anti-Muslim hate groups like Soldiers of Odin and its various offshoots. 

ROC has previously shared photos placing them at events with uniformed members of the Jewish Defence League, and posts by the page’s administrators echo initiatives by the JDL, including a call for information about the neo-Nazi Canadian Nationalist Party

“The Jewish Defence League is seeking additional information about his support base.

"If anyone has information about these supporters of [party leader] Travis Patron,” ROC wrote, “then please contact the Jewish Defence League and we will take action.”

“The leader of the far-right BDS Canadian Nationalist Party (Travis Patron) has threatened the Jewish Community. Only JDL has the answer,” reads another post on the subject.

One post cites the anti-Muslim conspiracy website Jihad Watch

In 2017, when a student organization brought members of the Israeli Defence Force to speak at York University, organizer Lauren Isaacs reportedly said she “personally appointed a security organizer” who had “connections to certain Jewish motorcycle groups like the Riders of the Covenant and The Deplorables, whose members came out and selflessly protected our community.”

Issacs added that the JDL also “sent out a group of guys.”

 

JDL Claim The Counter Protest

 

According to the Toronto Police Service, on Saturday, May 15, over 5,000 people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square, outside of city hall. While most were attending to show support for the Palestinian cause, a smaller crowd of pro-Israel counter-protesters -- which the JDL claimed to have organized -- arrived as well. 

Police formed a line between the two groups, yet after the protest, things turned violent just outside Nathan Phillips Square. Footage shared on the incident shows a group of men draped in Palestinian flags walking away from another group, many of whom are wearing black shirts bearing a closed fist within a Star of David, the symbol of the JDL. 

A member from the pro-Israel group taunts the men walking away. Suddenly, off frame, an unseen inciting incident takes place. When the camera pans back, two men are struggling over control of a baton. 

The crowds rush into each other and a brawl ensues. 

A man in blue, Nisan, is seen holding a bat that he brandishes against people during the altercation. As the video progresses he loses his truncheon and pulls what appears to be a knife from his pocket. A clearer photo, taken by an Associated Press photographer, shows a knife in his hand.

He waves it at the men who try to approach him while others shout for him to put it down. He flees after another fighter blindsides him with a punch from behind.

Established in 1960s New York City, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane. According to Georgetown University, the Canadian branch of the JDL was established in 1979, and revived in 2006 by its current National Director, Meir Weinstein. 

In 2017, a Vaughan man and JDL member was charged for his part in an assault that took place in Washington DC. According to Toronto's Now Magazine, Yosef Steynovitz was arrested after an altercation outside the pro-Israel American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference was caught on video. Kamal Nayfeh, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American college teacher, was sent to the hospital with an eye injury that required 19 stitches. Brandon Vaughan, another JDL member and Proud Boy, was also charged. 

In 2018, JDL Canada came out strongly against the non-binding Motion 103, which called on the Canadian government to condemn Islamophobia, saying at the time the motion “promotes radical Islam.”  JDL Canada had collaborated with a number of groups in the racist right, finding common ground in their anti-Muslim bigotry, before the antisemitism inherent to the movement eventually pushed them away. 

Accusations against the original JDL extend from open racism and intolerance to plans by members to carry out terrorism. In 2001 members were arrested by the FBI in the “final stages” of planning attacks against the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, California, and the local office of a US Congressperson. 

According to the Canadian Jewish News, “in 2011, the RCMP launched an investigation into at least nine members of the Canadian JDL following an anonymous tip that they were planning to bomb Palestine House.” The RCMP did not reportedly return The CJN’s calls. Meir Weinstein, JDL Canada’s founder and national director, said nothing came of the probe.

 

Canadian Anti-Hate Network has reached out to Greg Nisan for comment, but did not hear back by time of publication.

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