The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said it hopes a video taken at the Al Quds Day Rally at Queen’s Park late last month that shows organizers promoting “hateful, venomous rhetoric” will encourage legislators to keep the annual rally off government property in the future.
The eight-minute video shows a number of speakers, including children, lashing out against Israel, Jews and Zionists.
Syed Mohammad Zaki Baqri, from the Council for Islamic Guidance, said “Yehudi, [Jews] these Israelis and Zionism, has to be dismantled because they are inhuman.”
Pro-Palestinian activist Eva Bartlett said Sderot residents are sitting on couches, cheering the bombing of Gaza because they are “sadistic and criminal Zionists.”
Zafar Bangash, director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought and president of the Islamic Society of York Region said, “America is going to go down the drain very soon with the Zionist filth.”
“The video footage clearly shows that Al Quds Day speakers treated the legislative grounds as a platform for reprehensible rhetoric that reflected hatred toward Jews, Zionists and Israelis,” said Joel Reitman, co-chair of CIJA in the GTA. “The grounds of the Ontario legislature, representing our rich tradition of mutual respect, should not host such disgraceful contempt for other human beings.”
Last year, Toronto police launched a hate crimes investigation into comments made by Elias Hazineh, the former president of Palestine House, who called for the murder of Israelis.
“We have to give them an ultimatum. You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine… We say get out or you’re dead. We give them two minutes, and then we start shooting, and that’s the only way they’ll understand,” Hazineh said.
Despite the language heard and documented at previous rallies, the legislature’s sergeant-at-arms, Dennis Clarke, granted rally organizers permission to gather at Queen’s Park in July.
“These groups are exercising their right to assemble and to freedom of speech and are not subject to censorship by the legislative assembly,” Clarke told the Toronto Sun. “The decision to use the grounds should in no way be interpreted to mean the legislative assembly either condones or condemns the purpose of any demonstration.”
Howard English, CIJA’s senior vice-president, said legislators at Queen’s Park should re-evaluate the rules that determine who is allowed to use legislative property.
“We certainly want to press our case on Queen’s Park that this rally should not have been allowed on the grounds of the legislature because the hateful, venomous rhetoric that we heard demeans the dignity of the legislature and it’s a slap in the face to an institution that represents respect for each other and civil discourse. The rhetoric that everyone heard at the rally was the furthest things from civil discourse imaginable,” English said.
“It showed utter contempt for other human beings with whom the protesters disagree and more importantly it was filled with hateful invective against Jews, against Israel, against Zionists and that kind of reprehensible rhetoric should never be allowed on the hallowed grounds of an institution that represents the foundation of all our values.”
English said that he has been in contact with Toronto police about some of the messages heard at the protest.
“We think some of the things that were said are way beyond the boundaries of acceptable speech but it would really be up to the police to determine whether they think any laws have been broken,” he said.
“It is not yet at the stage of a formal complaint because the Toronto Police Service has to go through a number of processes before it gets to the formal complaint stage, but we have expressed in writing our concerns about some of the rhetoric at the rally.”
English insisted that this is not an attempt to stifle free speech.
“We are not trying to ban these demonstrators from saying what they say, as mean-spirited and as hate-filled as it may be. And we don’t believe in a pre-emptive banning of events. What we are saying is that the legislative assembly has a choice of who is allows on its property and this was not in our opinion a good choice.”