TORONTO — With its Hezbollah flags, near hysterical tone and slogans that accused Zionists of being racists, inhuman and barbarians, last year’s “Al-Quds” rally at Queen’s Park shocked many observers.
This year, two major Jewish organizations are calling on the province to refuse permission for a similar “antisemitic hate rally.”
In a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) urged the government to “not sanction organizations calling for war, death and hate towards Jews by permitting the use of public property for such a purpose.”
Meanwhile, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has called on Queen’s Park’s sergeant-at-arms to decline to give permission for the demonstration.
CIJA spokesperson Steve McDonald said last year’s rally was organized by a radical Shiite group originally founded by Iran’s late leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Participants openly flew flags of Hezbollah – a terrorist group – while speakers repeated antisemitic canards, including those that compared Zionists to a growing cancer.
“We have every reason to believe the same thing will recur,” McDonald said.
This year’s proposed Queen’s Park rally is scheduled for Aug. 18 and is part of a larger campaign to protest “the usurpation of the Holy Land by the Zionist regime.”
According to freealquds.org, rallies will be held in Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa, as well as in a number of American cities.
Last year’s Toronto rally was sponsored by the Canadian Shia Muslims Organization (CASMO), which in the past has posted materials by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke on its website.
The Al-Quds Rally was originally created by Khomeini. According to one of his contacts in the Iranian expatriate community, “this is a direct extension of the regime abroad and not just a threat to the Jewish community, but the Iranian expatriate community,” McDonald said.
Ontario taxpayers have the right to know their legislature will not be used as a platform for antisemitism, he added.
In his letter to McGuinty, FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo said, “Ontarians were shocked and embarrassed that a blatantly antisemitic event was held [last year] at the seat of the provincial government.”
“FSWC 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,” Benlolo stated.
Film of last year’s rally showed Imam Zafar Bangash of the Islamic Society of York Region saying that U.S. President Barack Obama “would rather have Americans starve to death, but he cannot say no to the Zionist parasitical state.”
Bangash referred to the United States as a “stooge government” and to Obama as “this black man in the White House.”
He went on to call Zionists “racist,” “inhuman,” and “barbarians.”
Maulana Asad Jafri, described as a Khomeinist student from Qoms, Iran, said “whenever you see injustice happen, there is a one per cent, two per cent, 100 per cent involvement by the Zionist regime, the same Zionist regime that sucks the resources, the blood and everything that belongs to the people all across the world.”
Another speaker referred to Israel as a spreading cancer that either dies, takes the host body with it, or is itself killed.
Benlolo said, “We believe this is not about free speech. It’s about promoting hatred. Beyond the law, Canadian society finds it abhorrent and shocking that people could stand on public grounds and spew hateful ideology that’s clearly antsemitic.”
McDonald likewise rejected suggestions that denying organizers a permit to gather would violate their free speech rights. Demonstrators can march elsewhere, he said, but Queen’s Park has its own policy on permissible gatherings and that should be applied.
Last year’s rally included the participation of Karin Brothers, a member of Bloor Street United Church’s social justice committee.
After she was shown on the video telling participants that “we need you,” the United Church issued a statement distancing itself from her.
Brothers spoke on her own behalf and not for the church, said church spokesperson Rev. Bruce Gregersen.