Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: A Tale of Antisemitic Misrepresentation

Mar 21, 2024

A man with former (?) affiliations to neo-Nazism takes illicit footage from a Hindu supremacist and misrepresents the scene to cast doubt on the Jewish subject of the video clip:

“I know that ‘I’ haven’t been kicked out of a synagogue before.”

This derisive comment was targeted at my videographer. It referred to a confrontation between him and a pro-Israel protester about her offside behaviour at an orthodox synagogue. A recording of the interaction was circulated amongst political extremists with an axe to grind. They misrepresented the incident to cast doubt on my videographer’s Jewishness with commentary ranging from hypocritical to outright antisemitic.

The key perpetrators are each one degree of separation from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and PressProgress. Both organizations purport to monitor or report on “hate,” yet fully disregard bigotry and harassment that emanates from their own sources and affiliates. There is money and power in gatekeeping hate.

Caught in the Crossfire of Polarized Perception

Covering protests and rallies over the past three years, my videographer and I have been cast and treated as “enemies” by participants from both sides of these events.

We work using two scooters and two phones. Simple and effective. Our citizen journalism fills gaps left by legacy media and has evolved into a project about civil liberties, civic engagement and public order. But perception is in the eye of the beholder. We do not make an effort to show anyone as looking good or bad. It is beyond our control how people choose to behave, and how others interpret such actions in light of their own cognitive biases.

Still, each group perceives us as supporting the other, giving way to harassment and escalating abuse. I share publicly only a fraction of what we endure. Our objective is to capture as much as possible with raw footage and let everyone decide for themselves what they see.

Since October 7, 2023, we have spent countless hours covering protests, counter protests, and other events about Gaza. We are laser-focused on covering the Canadian response to international and domestic political affairs. The stars aligned to give us a unique vantage point: I am the mixed-race daughter of a Palestinian refugee and imam. My videographer is fully Jewish. He was born to a Jewish mother, went to Hebrew school, and grew up in the synagogue. We were each raised in tight knit, insular communities. Neither of us fit the mold.

An Eventful Evening at the Synagogue

On March 18, 2024, my videographer had a full day.

In the morning, he livestreamed a small pro-Israel demonstration outside the Doctors Without Borders national office downtown. At lunch, he ran into an RCMP bodyguard involved in the high-profile January 2024 arrest of Rebel News reporter David Menzies. Our 47-second video garnered over 100,000 views. In the afternoon, he scootered to North York for another pro-Israel rally, this time outside Ya’ara Saks’s constituency office. In the evening, he sat in on an Israel Now meeting at an orthodox synagogue.

Israel Now describes itself as a movement “committed to the restoration of pride and integrity within the consciousness of the Jewish People, the return of traditional Jewish values, the reclamation of the Jewish sense of Justice, and the exposure and abolition of hatred and bigotry.” For contributions $36 or more, donors receive a free t-shirt featuring a 9mm pistol within a yellow Star of David and the slogan “Every Jew a .22.”

Meir Weinstein is the founder of Israel Now. He was the longtime national director of the now-defunct Jewish Defence League (JDL). The JDL was classified as a right-wing terrorist group by the FBI in 2000/2001. Meir Weinstein has dismissed this as a one-off opinion by a field officer, pointing out that no ban against the JDL was ever in effect. There is an unknown degree in overlap between former JDL and Israel Now membership.

My videographer’s purpose in attending the Israel Now meeting was twofold: to observe the guest speaker, and to inquire about the provenance of a flyer identifying several people (including my videographer) as security threats.

Guest speaker David Menzies shared behind the scenes insight about Rebel News and discussed his personal connections to the Jewish community. He received several standing ovations from the approximately 60 attendees. Afterwards, there was a discussion about the logistics of developing an email list to expand the group’s reach.

A few minutes before the meeting adjourned, my videographer noticed that Daphna Pollak was filming him. It was not altogether surprising to be targeted by Pollak, a regular in the pro-Israel protest circuit. In early March 2024, she was a marshal during demonstrations outside Beth Avraham synagogue. She actively blocked and discouraged others from speaking with us, rationalizing that proactive censorship would mitigate the risk of anyone looking bad.

Following the Beth Avraham dust-up, an image circulated online purporting to depict a list of personae non grata at the synagogue. My videographer’s photo was pasted alongside protesters whose actions we document including Deana Sherif, Ghada Sasa, and Naved Awan.

During my videographer’s interaction with Daphna Pollak at the Israel Now meeting, he took the opportunity to ask about the flyer and whether she was involved in its creation or dissemination. It is a sensitive matter to be profiled without due process, particularly from a place of worship. My videographer expressed his grievances, though no clarity was provided about the origins of the flyer. Daphna Pollak said she deleted her unsanctioned recording of him. Nobody got ejected from the synagogue.

That should have been the end of it. However, the incident was recorded by perennial protester and self-described Hindu Nationalist, Ron Banerjee.

Ron Banerjee: Chaos Enthusiast

Ron Banerjee is a moth drawn to the flames of chaos. He is notorious for maniacally proselytizing Hindu nationalism at protests. He is virulently anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh. His extreme views are widely documented, including by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

I have known Ron Banerjee since 2021. We first met with him chasing me down the street as I documented an anti-lockdown rally. Over time, we learned to coexist– or, more precisely, I learned to roll my eyes at his antics. We have interacted countless times over the years, including in non-protest settings. He can be insightful in fleeting moments outside his obnoxious behaviour and talking points; this is hard to reconcile with his persona, which is gleefully constructed around hate. People are complex, but also simple. He rejects others before they can reject him.

Ron Banerjee claims to have once provided IT services to the JDL. He presently shares footage from pro-Palestine rallies with Meir Weinstein, including the viral clip of a protester at the Eaton Centre yelling, “I’ll put you six feet deep!”

Ron Banerjee has also intimated that he took several clips of my footage, removed the watermark, and gave it to an unwitting Meir Weinstein; he joked about enjoying the ensuing fallout.

For whatever reason, Ron Banerjee decided to disseminate his video of the Israel Now meeting. The publication of a private exchange within the confines of a synagogue triggered a wave of antisemitism directed towards my videographer. This harassment was incited by Josh Chernofsky, Brett Stewart, and Joe Morin, each of whom have been cited or endorsed by either the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) or PressProgress.

An Extreme Trio: Josh Chernofsky, Brett Stewart, Joe Morin

Josh Chernofsky’s journey through political extremes is as perplexing as it is questionable. He claims to have joined the Proud Boys in 2019, approximately two years before the group’s designation as a “terrorist entity” in Canada. In March 2020, Josh Chernofsky was identified and named by ARC Collective, a blog run by CAHN board member Kurt Phillips. Josh Chernofsky sought revenge for the perceived injustice. With the help of convicted criminal Bryan Trottier, he doxxed CAHN executive director Evan Balgord by publishing his family’s address on Stormfront, a neo-Nazi online forum.

In or around June 2020, Josh Chernofsky says he had an epiphany triggered by antifascist activist Sarah Hegazi taking her own life. He reached out to Evan Balgord to reform his ways, although refers to “backsliding” which implies his trajectory was not straightforward. In July 2021, Bryan Trottier linked Josh Chernofsky to his anonymous Twitter account. CAHN’s Evan Balgord publicly vouched for Josh Chernofsky.

Since then, Ron Banerjee has publicly bragged about coordinating with Josh Chernofsky to cause chaos in the streets, and elsewhere. In February 2022, Josh Chernofsky apparently leaked information about an anti-convoy march to help Ron Banerjee optimize his counter protest. (I have seen text messages to this effect, as Ron Banerjee’s word is best taken alongside corroborating evidence.) In December 2022,

There is speculation that Josh Chernofsky might be a double, if not triple agent.

Brett Stewart is a serial online harasser based in British Columbia. He has been attacking people online for at least a decade. He uses at least one anonymous handle to pump out vitriol about his targets around the clock. In June 2022, I became the subject of his rage for representing one of his other targets (a disabled homeless man who frequents protests) in court on a discreet matter involving CAHN’s Kurt Phillips. Brett Stewart subsequently made thousands of hateful posts about me and any perceived supporters, including my videographer. In the lead up to this article, he is desperately trying to frame me as antisemitic based on lies and misrepresentations. Brett Stewart’s anonymous account has been cited as a trusted source by PressProgress editor Luke Lebrun.

Joe Morin is the co-host of Deana & Joe, starring perennial protester Deana Sherif. Joe Morin has been cited by CAHN for his role in coordinating the bombardment of complaints to demand the cancellation of events deemed problematic.

Three Stooges Incite Antisemitic Backlash: Fallout from Israel Now Video Release

Josh Chernofsky was the first to post Ron Banerjee’s footage without attribution at 10:59 pm EST on Mastodon. Brett Stewart posted the same clip on Twitter at 11:45 pm EST, citing an “unknown” source. Joe Morin posted on Twitter at 12:43 am EST, also without attribution.

Ron Banerjee posted his video on Facebook at some point between 11:35 pm and 12:00 am EST.

This sequence of events is important for two reasons. First, it suggests that Ron Banerjee shared footage directly with Josh Chernofsky before posting it himself. Second, the relatively short time gap between posts across social media platforms late at night suggests some level of back-channel communication, as well as a high degree of obsession with me and my videographer.

Accompanying the video clip, Josh Chernofsky, Brett Stewart, and Joe Morin each made statements undermining my videographer’s connections to Jewish faith, ethnicity, and community: “Perhaps if no group will take you, maybe you should re-examine your life choices up to this point”; “Say, isn’t that Caryma Sa’d’s famously-Jewish boyfriend Lee getting kicked out of synagogue? But… isn’t he her ticket into All Things Jewish? And her Get-Out-Of-Anti-Semitism-Jail-Free card??”; “Not welcome in Palestinian or Zionist circles. Awkward.”

Other terminally online “activists” joined the pile-on, including Deana Sherif, Gisela McKay, Leslie Fritz, Catherine Crockett, Leon Emmett, Terry Dempster, Pamela Trudel, and Ina Van Wijk.

Adding insult to injury, we are accused of improperly fraternizing with Ron Banerjee. In June 2022, Gisela McKay posted photos online of defamatory flyers that depicted me, my videographer, and Ron Banerjee as working together. In December 2022, Josh Chernofsky distributed the same flyers. This talking point was repeated by Brett Stewart and Joe Morin, both of whom implied or outright stated that we are in cahoots with him. “Evidence” included photos of Ron Banerjee standing near us at protests, as though that reveals shared interests. In fact, we manage to be civil with protesters whose values are antithetical to ours, including Ron Banerjee.

This is not the first time my videographer has been mocked in relation to being Jewish. The loose network of harassers has a running joke about his covenant with G-d, after my videographer livestreamed an interaction with a pro-Israel protester who doubted his heritage. My videographer facetiously asked: “Would you like to see my penis?”, referencing his religious circumcism. The rude response to a rude question was clipped out of context and routinely posted online and referenced to imply that my videographer is a sexual deviant.

To be clear, it is antisemitic for anyone (particularly non-Jews) to suggest an actual Jewish man is not Jewish enough, or to fabricate stories about him being thrown out of the synagogue. It is also hypocritical for self-styled “antifascists” to rely on a zealous Hindu nationalist’s privately-sourced footage without attribution, while simultaneously projecting that he has a secret alliance with the victim of harassment.

There is plenty more to be said about the role of CAHN and PressProgress in legitimizing voices who use hateful rhetoric as a tool to bully others. It brings to mind a wolf putting on sheep’s clothing and then criticizing others for not bleating authentically enough.

Caryma Sa'd

Caryma Sa'd takes a no holds barred approach in her razor-sharp commentary; nothing and nobody is immune from criticism.

Related stories