TORONTO – Hate crimes charges will not be brought against a Palestinian community leader in Toronto who said Israelis should be given a two-minute warning before being shot.
Addressing the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto last August, Elias Hazineh, former president of Palestine House in suburban Toronto, called for “an ultimatum” to Israelis: “You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine.”
“They don’t negotiate. And we have been negotiating with them for 65 years. We say, ‘Get out or you are dead.’ We give them two minutes and then we start shooting. And that’s the only way they’ll understand,” Hazineh said to cheers from about 400 present at the rally.
B’nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs asked police to investigate Hazineh for possible hate crimes. Charges for offences of this nature have to be approved by Ontario’s attorney general.
On Jan. 30, police informed the complainants that no charges would be brought against Hazineh.
“We are disappointed by the decision not to confront hatred on the streets of Toronto,” Frank Dimant, B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO, said in a statement. “It seems that we have sadly grown accustomed to hearing hateful rhetoric spewed at these pro-Iranian regime, anti-Israel events.”
Anita Bromberg, national director of legal affairs at B’nai Brith Canada, said hate crimes prosecutions in Ontario hinge on two legal criteria: whether a charge would be in the “public interest” and the chance of a successful prosecution.
Hazineh later said his comments were not meant to be taken literally.
“I made a comment that when somebody robs a bank, the cops don’t negotiate for 45 years,” he told the Jerusalem Post on Aug. 11, a week after his public speech. “They come and they say, ‘Listen, drop your gun, come out with your hands up, or you’re dead.’ This is not an actual threat to move there and shoot people. This is not what I said nor did I mean it this way.”
Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General, told JTA that the ministry doesn't comment on specific investigations, but added that in "determining whether or not a prosecution should be initiated, senior Crown prosecutors within the Ministry, conduct a thorough review of the circumstances of the case, the nature of the allegations, and the relevant case law. In accordance with Crown policy, there must also be a reasonable prospect of conviction."
The Queen’s Park sergeant-at-arms to refuse to issue a permit to the annual protest, traditionally held on the grounds outside the Ontario legislature building in Toronto, so organizers held the event at a nearby park.