Jewish Groups, Opposition MPP Against Al-Quds Rally
Ontario government urged to prevent hate and anti-Semitism on Queen’s Park
Thornhill, Ont. MPP Peter Shurman has joined Canadian Jewish groups in protesting the recently approved Al-Quds rally, scheduled to take place in Toronto, Ont. on Saturday, August 18 at 2 p.m. in Queen’s Park.
The rally was granted by the Ontario legislature’s Sergeant-At-Arms Dennis Clark earlier this week to take place on Queen’s Park grounds.
During this year’s annual International Day of Al-Quds, organizers say they plan to “express solidarity with all the oppressed of the world” and to “particularly remember the innocent civilians of Palestine who have been, and continue to be victimized by the oppressive and racist Zionist regime.”
The “Free Al-Quds” website indicates that the rally will start at Queen’s Park before making its way over to the U.S. consulate.
At last year’s event, speakers compared Israel to a cancer, waved yellow Hezbollah flags and displayed pictures of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian leader of the Islamic Revolution who started the day in 1979 to mark the last Friday of Ramadan, according to the National Post.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) videotaped last year’s festivities and recently shared footage with Clark, who is in charge of approving applications for events held on Queen’s Park.
“We don’t see this as a police issue, we see this as an issue for Queen’s Park to manage the use of the legislature’s grounds in an appropriate way and to prevent those grounds from being abused as a platform for hate,” Steve McDonald, CIJA’s associate director of communications, told the Post. “More importantly, perhaps, [we want to] allow for the Canadian public to see for themselves the sort of radicalism that’s being imported to our country by a very small segment of Canadian society.”
Last year’s rally was sponsored by the Canadian Shia Muslims Organization (CASMO), which has posted materials by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on its website in the past.
Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies had urged the Ontario government to prevent the rally from taking place on the legislature’s grounds in a letter he sent to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty earlier this week.
“Ontarians were shocked and embarrassed that a blatantly anti-Semitic event was held at the seat of the provincial government featuring a hate monger like Zafar Bangash, a notorious supporter of the vicious Iranian dictatorship which persecutes and murders dissidents and minorities,” Benlolo wrote.
“At last year's event, Mr. Bangash called for a Jihad against Jerusalem whereby Islamic law would be imposed upon Israel; he was in fact captured on video at the rally shouting, ‘Inshallah I see that day when we, the Muslims, will march on Palestine and liberate Palestine . . . under Islamic law.’ There is every reason to believe this year's event would feature similar messages of hate,” he said.
“Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center believes that while free speech is an essential component of a democratic society, the Provincial government should not sanction organizations calling for war, death and hate towards Jews by permitting the use of public property for such a purpose.”
Following the approval by the Sergeant-At-Arms, Thornhill’s Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman issued a statement on Thursday.
“Reports of last year’s ‘Al-Quds rally’ suggest that limits of the Canadian freedoms of expression and free assembly, intended to allow free and open debate, were exploited to provide a platform for the dissemination of hatred, intimidation, discrimination and anti-Semitism,” said Shurman.
“Events that promote hatred and discrimination based on ethnicity, culture or religion have no place in the province that has been built on the foundations of hard work, respect for human rights and the rule of law. Queen’s Park is a place that represents these values. It is especially disturbing that this building, which stands as a symbol of democracy and human rights, rights which Ontarians have fought and died for, could be used as a platform to incite hatred.”
Shurman pointed out that just two years ago, Ontario MPPs of all parties voted unanimously to pass his motion condemning use of the term, “Israel Apartheid Week” and once again called on his colleagues to stand in solidarity and “deny another attempt to spread hatred, discrimination and anti-Semitism.”
Benlolo also reacted to Clark’s decision, saying he was deeply disappointed by the approval of the “virulently anti-Israel, pro-Iran Al-Quds Committee to hold an anti-western, anti-Semitic hate rally” later this month.
“Allowing this Committee to import the hateful dogma of the despotic Iranian regime to the grounds of the Ontario legislature is an insult to all Canadians who are offended by a group of fanatics who pervert our cherished ideal of free speech to spout venom and to promote a profoundly anti-western, anti-democratic theology,” said Benlolo in a statement, calling the issue “a simple matter of right and wrong” rather than “a debate about free speech versus hate speech.”
“It is truly unfortunate that the principles of tolerance and inclusion do not extend to the target of their unbridled hatred – Canada’s Jewish community, which remains astonished that such groups are welcome in our public spaces.”
The Jewish Defence League of Canada has planned a counter-protest at the exact same time and location of the Al-Quds rally.