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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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Queen’s Park gives approval for ‘Al-Quds’ rally

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Avi Benlolo

TORONTO — Queen’s Park has approved an “Al-Quds” rally on the legislature’s grounds that Jewish groups say offended Canadian values and was antisemitic when held last year.

The 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.” The Al-Quds rallies, which have been held in a number of Canadian and American cities, were the creation of the late Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Jewish groups are disappointed that Queen’s Park’s Sergeant-at-Arms Dennis Clark has granted approval for the demonstration. They had argued that last year’s event violated Queen’s Park’s terms of use and this year’s application should have been denied.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) called the organizing Al-Quds committee pro-Iran and anti-Israel.

“Allowing this committee to import the hateful dogma of the despotic Iranian regime to the grounds of the Ontario legislature is an insult to all Canadians who are offended by a group of fanatics who pervert our cherished ideal of free speech to spout venom and to promote a profoundly anti-western, anti-democratic theology,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of FSWC.

“It is truly unfortunate that the principles of tolerance and inclusion do not extend to the target of their unbridled hatred – Canada’s Jewish community, which remains astonished that such groups are welcome in our public spaces.”

FSWC called last year’s rally an “endorsement of hate” and “a matter of public safety.”

The group said that it “will continue to monitor the situation and pressure police, media, politicians and community leaders to review the laws that permit hate and the support of repressive Iranian-style sharia law free reign in Ontario's public spaces.”

“This is no longer a debate about free speech versus hate speech,” Benlolo said. “This is an insult to all Ontarians and a simple matter of right and wrong.”

Frank Dimant, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, said that “‘Al-Quds’ organizers have taken great steps to keep their identities hidden from the public, and in the name of privacy, the government will not disclose their identities, despite the very public nature of this event.

“It is simply not appropriate for the government to shield the identity of the organization behind this public rally.

“Given last year’s demonstration where hateful remarks were made by speakers and organizers who singled out Ontario’s Jewish community for contempt, such a rally has no place at the seat of Ontario’s government. Since the event is in fact a jihadist call to action for the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel and its transformation into one ruled by Islamist sharia law, the very concept of marking ‘Al-Quds Day’ is offensive to the principles Ontarians live by.

Steve McDonald, a spokesperson for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) held out the hope that the sergeant-at-arms could reverse his decision.

“He still has the opportunity to take our advice” and deny permission for the rally, to take place, McDonald said.

CIJA had provided the sergeant-at-arms with information about last year’s rally, in which speakers called Israel and Zionists cancerous, barbarians, parasitic and malevolent.

“We explained why we think vis-à-vis its own policy that it was violated last year and why we expect it will be violated again this year,” he said.

“If they allow them to proceed, we’ll be watching closely,” he added.

Clark told The CJN that he met with organizers of the rally and told “them what they can or can’t do. It has to be lawful.”

However, “It’s important that we don’t censor events, as long as they stay within the law.

“If they step over the line, we’re going to monitor it closely,” with members of his staff and Toronto police on hand. “Police will “determine if it’s in the best public interest to do something then or later. Public safety is paramount,” he said.

Clark said he's aware of last year’s rally and of concerns it will be repeated. But, he continued, “we go by their intent today. They say they will play within the rules and ensure that nothing will cross the line.”

As for B’nai Brith’s request that he identify the event’s sponsors, Clark said “we just don’t release the names of the organizers. It’s up to them to let people know who they are.”

 

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