Israeli Greg Nisan says he’s not a member of the Jewish Defense League and he didn’t come armed to last Saturday night’s pro-Palestinian rally in downtown Toronto looking for a fight.
The man in the blue sweater seen in a viral video that has made the rounds of the internet — and which has been tweeted and posted on various anti-Israel sites — says despite the propaganda that has circulated about him, the bat he was allegedly holding was actually a selfie stick that went with his GoPro underwater camera.
And the knife shown in his hand was a homemade weapon he picked up and kept it to show to the police after it was thrown at him, he said Wednesday.
Nisan went from social media martyr to monster in two days; in part, as a result of a CBCstory on the video in which the allegations were made of his ties to a terror group with seemingly no comment from Nisan.
The 64-year-old said he came to an initially peaceful protest, at which he danced with an Iranian man holding his flag followed by a dance with a man from India.
When five Israeli girls came up to him and said they were really afraid of the mob surrounding them, he approached a Toronto Police officer, he said, to help the group leave.
Nisan said as they left “everything was flying” at them — bottles, knives, and many other things.
He returned to his car to have a cigarette and a coffee when he said he saw 15-20 people attacking one of the bikers from the Riders of the Covenant motorcycle club to which he belonged, he says.
When he exited his car, he had his GoPro stick to defend himself, but he said he quickly threw it away because he didn’t want to “get arrested.
“That’s when I got beaten like a dog,” he said.
He estimated seven to eight people surrounded him (as he was running away) with sticks and what appeared to be chains covered in a cloth material — noting he still has the marks from the chains on his shoulders and back.
Nisan said he has seven staples in his head from having his head cut open and seven stitches to his eyebrow — and never thought all of this would happen.
“I went for a totally peaceful protest,” he said. “I didn’t go there for a fight.”
In hindsight, he said, no Israeli supporters should have been there, adding he believes some of the pro-Palestinian contingents came looking for a fight.
Chuck Thompson, head of CBC public affairs, said Wednesday night they believe it’s “clear” from the image that Nisan “appears to be holding a knife.”
He denied that CBC said he was a JDL member — only that people in the group were wearing clothing with the JDL logo.
He added that they reached out to Nisan on Monday but “didn’t hear back.”
Two individuals were charged Sunday following the protest. But Toronto Police spokesperson Connie Osborne said no more charges have been laid so far.
She wouldn’t comment on the allegations related to the chains or the knives being thrown, noting this is an “active and ongoing” investigation.
“We would continue to urge anyone who was at the scene, or has any information, to contact police so we can gather as much information as possible,” Osborne said.
Nisan’s daughter was so upset she contacted criminal lawyer Leora Shemesh who got in touch with CBC to say Greg was a grandfather and not a member of any “terror group.” Semesh said one of the journalists, NIck Boisvert, did reach out to Nisan’s daughter Wednesday.
“I was quite surprised that the CBC would not have wanted to ensure the information was accurate and true before disparaging anyone,” she said.
Nisan’s daughter, who didn’t want to be named, said at a time when anti-Semitism is at an all-time high, her dad was wrongly-labelled as part of a terrorist group.
“Labelling all Israelis as terrorists seems to be in vogue today,” she said. “Not once in the videos is my dad seen hitting anyone … he narrowly managed to escape their unrelenting advances.”