JDL vigil at Palestine House ends peacefully

About 75 people protested across the street from Palestine House in Mississauga.
JDL logo

TORONTO — A vigil outside Palestine House in Mississauga, Ont., organized by the Jewish Defence League of Canada (JDL) ended peacefully on Nov. 23, unlike a protest last July that was marked by violence and resulted in criminal charges against two Palestine House supporters.

About 75 JDL members and supporters, waving Canadian and Israeli flags, stood across the street from Palestine House, as Peel Regional Police looked on. They gathered at the Palestine House offices, in a small strip mall on Erindale Station Road, to remember the five Israelis slain in a terrorist attack Nov. 18 in a Jerusalem synagogue, and to call for criminal charges against senior Palestine House officials. Those officials have gone on the record praising the attack, which makes them supporters of terrorism, said JDL head Meir Weinstein.

Weinstein, who used to go by the name Meir Halevi, said authorities should shut down Palestine House, since its leaders have more than once supported terrorist attacks on Israelis. Such pronouncements put them outside mainstream Canadian values and warrant dissolution, he said.

“They are encouraging terrorism in Canada against Jews,” he said. “They have posted statements justifying terrorist attacks. The graphics they’ve been putting out support it.”

He said the JDL brought its concerns to the attention of police, leaving with police material copied from the Alternative Angle, a blog site by Jonathan Halevi, editor of Shalom Toronto. In it Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, pointed to one Palestine House director who criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for condemning the synagogue attack and warned of further attacks. A screen shot from the Facebook page of another Palestine House board member showed her calling the murderers “role models”  and heroes.

In 2012, the federal government cited  Palestine House’s pattern of support for extremism when it put an end to $950,000 in funding for the group’s newcomer settlement programs.

At the time, Kasra Nejatian, a spokesperson for then-multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney, said, “We repeatedly raised, with Palestine House, our concerns about this pattern of support for extremism. But unfortunately, the organization has continued to promote extreme positions that undermine, rather than advance, social cohesion.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the vigil, Rachel Naiman delivered an eloquent denunciation of Palestine House leaders. She told the media “it is unbelievable” that anyone should be applauding the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in Jerusalem, one of whose victims is Toronto native Howard Rothman, who is fighting for his life.

“What really affected us is that it hit close to home with the release of the images from the synagogue. And here you have Palestine House celebrating the murders,” she said. “It’s unacceptable. It hits too close to home.”

While many in the audience were members of the Jewish community, the rally also drew support from Christian quarters.

Civil rights activist Mark Vandermaas, who founded Israel Truth Week in 2012 in response to the vilification of Israel and the intimidation of Jewish students at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ont., where he lives, spoke briefly to the audience, saying he stands in solidarity with those who mourn the victims in Jerusalem, he shares their desire to shut down Palestine House and he encourages supporters of Israel to present Israel’s case to the public.

Speaking to The CJN, Vandermaas said, “They’re [Palestine House directors] clearly expressing their delight in the killing of Jews. That doesn’t belong in our country.”

Vandermaas was accompanied to the rally by Al Gretzky, uncle of the famous hockey player. Gretzky said he has attended other pro-Israel rallies. He is concerned about the future of the Jewish People and how it might impact his own children and grandchildren.

“Once they get rid of Israel, who are they going to come for next?” he asked.

“My grandchildren down the road won’t be able to ask of me, why didn’t you do something,” he added.

Unlike the July protest, held after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli yeshiva students, Sunday’s was largely uneventful. Several JDL security personnel wore ski masks to hide their  identities. That had been cleared with police, said Weinstein, who said it was for safety reasons, as Palestine House supporters were photographing the crowd.

Loud Arabic language music was blasted at the JDL supporters from two speakers in front of Palestine House. Two of the masked JDL guards said they recognized the lyrics as praising death and calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Uniformed police were present in front of Palestine House and across the street where the JDL protesters stood. Around a dozen squad cars could be seen in the vicinity.