Toronto police have launched a hate crimes investigation into comments made by the former head of Palestine House who called for the widespread murder of Israelis.
“We have received a complaint with regards to things said at the Al-Quds Day rally. There is an investigation ongoing,” said Toronto police spokesperson Const. Wendy Drummond.
Police were present at the Aug. 5 rally, held near Queen’s Park, she said, though she declined to say whether the intelligence or hate crimes units were involved, nor who laid the complaint.
Meir Weinstein, head of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), said, “We’ve been in touch with the hate crimes unit. We want charges laid. We want charges laid under the hate crimes law.”
Weinstein, who led a counter-rally attended by about 70 JDL members and supporters, said he was particularly incensed at remarks by Elias Hazineh, the former president of Palestine House, who called for the murder of Israelis.
In a YouTube video posted by the Blazing Catfur blog site, Hazineh says: “We have to give them an ultimatum. You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine.”
“I want to remind you of how police work. When somebody tries to rob a bank, the police get in, they don’t negotiate, and we have been negotiating with them for 65 years. 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.”
Many of the 400 Al-Quds rally supporter nodded in agreement at that remark, Weinstein said.
Hazineh, who is Christian, also quoted from the Qur’an, saying, “And prepare against them [non-Muslims]/ Your strength to the utmost/ Of your power including/ Steeds of war to strike terror/ Into the hearts of the enemies.”
The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called on Toronto police to investigate “to determine whether the statements made by the speaker constitute a violation of the Criminal Code of Canada.”
B’nai Brith Canada criticized the rally organizers for using children as speakers “to spread lies and whip up hatred against the Jewish people.”
CIJA and B’nai Brith have sent video of the event to the police.
This is the third year running in which comments made at the Al-Quds Day rally have angered the Jewish community. Last year, concerned over anti-Semitic statements made at the 2011 event, Jewish groups asked the Queen’s Park sergeant-at-arms to deny organizers permission to gather at the legislature. The rally went ahead as scheduled.
This year, permission was denied, but organizers simply moved to a park a few hundred metres to the north of the legislature.
“It is disgusting and outrageous that a speaker at a rally in Canada would call for the murder of Jews in Israel. This is a hideously new low for Al-Quds Day and speaks to the reason why it was necessary for Queen’s Park to refuse the protest access to the Legislature’s grounds,” said Shimon Fogel, CEO of CIJA. “We call on our fellow Canadians to recognize and condemn this incident for what it is: vicious anti-Semitism that has no place in our country.”
Fogel said that while there is “at least an element or strain of radicalism” in the Arab and Muslim communities, it was incumbent on moderate, responsible elements in that community to repudiate the remarks made at the rally.
Jason Kenny, federal employment and social development minister, weighed in with two tweets, saying, “Confirms that we were right to de-fund Palestine House last year.”
He also tweeted that, “Hazineh was president of Mississauga Erindale Liberal [Electoral District Association] & managed Trudeau-advisor Omar Alghabra’s campaign. Hope they'll repudiate him.”
Commenting on his blog, Israeli security expert Jonathan Halevi noted the Hezbollah and Syrian flags were prominently displayed at the rally, as were photos the late Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Hezbollah is a banned terrorist organization and the Syrian government has been waging a bloody civil war against largely Sunni insurgents in which 100,000 have been killed. Khomeini created Al-Quds Day in 1979.
Halevi posted the video and text of speeches by two young people. In one, a boy around 12 years old said: “Zionism on the other hand preaches corruption and oppression and tyranny and bloodshed around the world. All the insurgencies you see in Syria they are blaming it on us.
“The Zionists thugs you see over there [referring to the JDL], they are the representation of all these problems and ‘fitans’ [cases of disunity] in the world. They are behind the insurgencies.”
Another youth speaker called Israel the “current Hitler” that has made Palestinians victims of “racist oppression and genocide.”
Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said, “This year’s Al-Quds Day protest sank to a new low with the use of children to spread lies and hatred. Canadian children are being indoctrinated and groomed as future speakers by people who openly support the Iranian regime, the late Ayatollah Khomeini and the banned terrorist group, Hezbollah.”
Weinstein criticized police for failing to ask protesters to take down their Hezbollah flags. “They were nervous going into the crowd to ask people to take down the flags. They were intimidated.”
Weinstein said police stood by while Hazineh spoke, and Weinstein criticized police for allowing the rally to proceed in a park near the legislature after Queen’s Park officials had denied permission to gather on the legislature’s grounds.
Fogel, however, saw it differently. Police, he suggested, were experiencing “a learning curve” when it comes to dealing with radicals displaying Hezbollah flags. They are simply trying to “keep peace, keep two sides apart,” he said.
He suggested the dissemination of the speakers’ comments will only erode support for their cause as other Canadians become aware “of the kind of dynamic at play within a segment of the population.
“I’m not in favour of shutting down political speech, but I do want them judged by what they have to say,” Fogel continued. “In the end, it brings into profound disrepute the cause they’re trying to advance. There are radical elements we should be concerned about.”