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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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TTC probes anti-Israel rally remark by staffer

Tags: Canada Al-Quds Day Avi Benlolo B'nai Brith Canada Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CIJA Frank Dimant Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Queen's Park Toronto Transit Commission TTC
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Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO Avi Benlolo wants the man fired.

TORONTO — The Toronto Transit Commission is investigating after one of its employees made vitriolic anti-Israel comments to a TV reporter at the July 26 Al-Quds Day rally at Queen’s Park.

The man did not identify himself, but wore a black shirt bearing the TTC’s logo on one of the arms.

The Sun News footage shows him shouting into the camera: “There should be a free Gaza, free Palestine. And if they continue, now we will go from here there and we will kill the Israel. We will kill all Israel. And we will show the power. What we can do further. Thank you.”

The reporter interviewing him then asked, “You’re going to kill Israel?” to which the man responded, “No, I’m just saying we’re going to go there and show the power to them.”

He then walked away.

TTC spokesperson Milly Bernal said the man has been confirmed to be a TTC staff member, but she would not comment on what his job is or where he works.

“We’re still investigating [the incident], and we can confirm this when the investigation has been completed,” she said, “

She added that the TTC’s policy regarding staff’s off-duty conduct while wearing a TTC uniform or attire is “pretty clear,” and she cited part of an employment contract that each worker must sign.

It states: “As an employee, the Toronto Transit Commission expects you to be of good character and to meet your responsibilities to the public and others which whom you come in contact in the performance of your duties… and to conduct yourself, while on duty, in a manner which does not jeopardize the integrity or the image of the TTC. To conduct yourself, while off duty and in issued uniform or clothing, equipment or TTC vehicle, in a manner that does not jeopardize the integrity or image of the TTC.”

In a letter to TTC chair Maria Augimeri, Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, urged that the worker be fired.

“It is crucial that Canadian authorities act decisively and with conviction before this ideology of hate,” he wrote, “so capably exported by Iran and its supporters here, destroys the democratic foundations of our society. This includes, first of all, dismissing the TTC worker who is clearly not fit to wear the uniform and has tarnished the image of the TTC.”

Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, wasn’t surprised such comments were made at the event.

“I think it’s imperative to note that B’nai Brith was concerned about the rally to begin with,” Dimant said.

“We’d requested Queen’s Park to disallow the gathering, which we knew would become a hate forum. It is absolutely disgusting and unacceptable that any Canadian – TTC worker or not – would advocate genocide for all Israelis. What we see in Europe is rapidly coming to Canada. Hamas flags in the streets, attacks on Jews in Montreal and Calgary… we should not be passive on this matter and pretend it will merely go away. We hope the TTC will use all the disciplinary powers it has to discipline a worker who has discredited their service.”

Howard English, senior vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said his group sees the incident “as part of a larger issue… the words this man used are symptomatic of an increasingly prevalent tendency to move beyond the criticism of Israel into statements that are incendiary and even anti-Semitic…we’ve seen this taking place in Europe as an excuse for anti-Semitism, where anti-Israel protesters are shouting death to the Jews.”

He added: “Reasonable disagreement with Israel’s policies in a free society is perfectly legitimate, but the language is becoming more violent, the rhetoric more fiery and the contempt more aggravated.”

As to whether CIJA would like to see disciplinary measures taken against the employee, English said, “We don’t want to even suggest to the TTC the approach it should take to this employee. The TTC’s policies about employees who publicly represent them are for the TTC to make and enforce.”

In a statement, Augimeri said that employees in TTC uniform "on or off duty – must conduct themselves with integrity and not jeopardize the TTC's image or reputation." She said the TTC is continuing to investigate the incident and that "TTC staff will take action it deems most appropriate" when the investigation is done.

"We understand the sensitive nature of this and the great upset it has caused so many of out customers and the public; it is beng handled with the seriousness and sensitivity it deserves."

Toronto police spokesperson Jenifferjit Sidhu said no charges were laid in connection with the incident, nor did police receive any reports of hate crimes at the Al-Quds Day rally.

A video of the rally shot by filmmaker Igal Hecht and supplied to The CJN, shows a pro-Palestinian protester shouting at the pro-Israel protestors “Go back where you come from…go back to Germany, where they can kill you again.”

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