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Sunday, September 21, 2014

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Group decries ‘veiled threats’ against Jews

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HAMILTON — A lecture at McMaster University by pro-Iranian, anti-Israel speaker Zafar Bangash late last month contained “veiled threats” against Jews, said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

“Despite McMaster’s assertion that the presentation by Bangash would be respectful, his words were clearly hateful, inflammatory and laced with veiled threats against Jews,” Benlolo said.

During the Jan 26 lecture, titled “Iran in the Crosshairs,” Bangash, president of the Islamic Society of York Region, who is known for advocating Iranian-style theocracy, warned the crowd of the consequences of going to war with a heavily armed Iran.

A video of the lecture was uploaded by a website called shiatv.net and in it, Bangash is recorded saying, “If there were an attack on Iran, and obviously the fact that Israel would be involved in it, [the] U.S. would be involved in it, it is quite possible that, you know, members of the Jewish community might be targeted… We will not want that to happen at all, but you cannot control the emotions of the people.”

He continued with a non sequitur, saying, “You know what happens to the Palestinian people – someone throws a stone and the Israelis come and bomb the whole town. This is common knowledge.”

During a question-and-answer period, Bangash compared Zionists to Nazis and racists, and he reiterated his stance that Jews are not entitled to their own homeland.

Days before the lecture – sponsored by the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, Independent Jewish Voices, as well as student groups Students for Justice in the Middle East, McMaster Muslims for Peace and Justice, and Students Resisting War and Occupation – Benlolo wrote a letter to McMaster president Patrick Deane.

The letter challenged the president to take a stand against the speech by Bangash, who was quoted during a rally last summer at Queen’s Park as saying, “This black man in the White House, Barack Obama… he would rather have Americans starve to death, but he cannot say no to the Zionist parasitical state… That is what makes them racists, that is what makes them inhuman, that is what makes them barbarians.”

McMaster spokesperson Gord Arbeau responded by putting the onus on event organizers to ensure respectful dialogue and cited the university’s “important role in maintaining freedom of speech.”

Benlolo said he planned to file a complaint against Bangash with Hamilton police.

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