Queen’s Park nixes Al-Quds rally on legislature grounds

Pro- and anti-Israel activists faced off at last year's Al-Quds Day rally at Queen's Park. CJN FILE PHOTO
Pro- and anti-Israel activists faced off at the 2014 Al-Quds Day rally at Queen's Park. CJN FILE PHOTO

TORONTO — In 2013, at the annual Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto, Elias Hazineh, a former head of Palestine House, stood in the city park behind the Ontario legislature and threatened Israelis with death if they did not leave Jerusalem and Palestine.

Last year, Syed Mohammad Zaki Baqri, from the Council for Islamic Guidance, called “Yehudi, [Jews]” Israelis and Zionism “inhuman” while pro-Palestinian activist Eva Bartlett said Sderot residents were “sadistic and criminal Zionists.” 

Hazineh’s inflammatory remarks prompted a police investigation and calls by Jewish groups and others for the Queen’s Park sergeant-at-arms to deny permission for future rallies on the grounds of the legislature.

This year it appears they got their wish. According to a news release from B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish organization said it has received word that a permit would not be issued to rally organizers.

And Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle confirmed he had received a letter from the sergeant-at-arms saying no permit would be issued for the Al-Quds rally. However, the sergeant-at-arms cited the Pan Am Games and Parapan Games as the reasons. 

Colle said concern that police resources would be stretched too thin during the Games likely prompted the decision, however constant advocacy by opponents of the rally likely turned the sergeant-at-arms’ attention to the rally and the possibility of violence resulting from a rally organized by terrorist supporters.

“Having spoken to and worked with members of provincial parliament, human rights groups from all backgrounds – including the Persian-Canadian community – and hundreds of concerned Canadians across the province, we have learned that no permit will be issued for the annual ‘Al-Quds Day’ hate-rally this year on the grounds of the Ontario legislature,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. 

“Thousands came together to sign our petition and reach out to the sergeant-at-arms and their local MPP to demand that Queen’s Park not be used to promote hate.”

Mostyn said the B’nai Brith petition garnered nearly 3,000 signatures against “this shameful display of bigotry, celebrating the legacy of the late Ayatollah Khomeini [the leader of the Iranian Revolution], who was responsible for the persecution and death of thousands of his own people based on their gender, race, political ideology, religion and sexual orientation.”

The Al-Quds Day rally was established in 1979 by the government of Iran to express solidarity with the Palestinian people and to oppose Israel’s existence as well as its control of Jerusalem. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem.

The Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto has had a checkered past. At the 2011 rally, participants waved Syrian flags while that country engaged  in a murderous rampage against its own citizens, which at the time had already claimed 100,000 lives. Also present were flags of Hezbollah, a banned terrorist organization.

Also in 2011, Maulana Asad Jafri, described as a Khomeinist student from Qoms, Iran, said “whenever you see injustice happen, there is a one per cent, two per cent, 100 per cent involvement by the Zionist regime, the same Zionist regime that sucks the resources, the blood and everything that belongs to the people all across the world.”

Another speaker referred to Israel as a spreading cancer that either dies, taking  the host body with it, or is itself killed.

In subsequent years, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the sergeant-at-arms to deny a permit for rally organizers.

Mostyn urged the sergeant-at-arms to “go further and take this opportunity to declare that permits for divisive hate-rallies will no longer be issued in the future. The people of this province demand no less. Those who wish to use the grounds of our legislature to promote the hateful propaganda of the Ayatollah, which can only serve to radicalize impressionable Canadian youth to violence, must understand that there is no room for targeting minority groups for hatred in the province of Ontario.”

Colle said the sergeant-at-arms acted correctly in denying permission for the “pro-terrorist demonstration” from going ahead, but “I would like the prohibition to be permanent.

“We have to continue to stand up and say this is not acceptable and should not be allowed,” he said. 

Len Rudner, CIJA’s director of community relations, also praised the decision to deny the permit.

“We are gratified that the organizers of Al-Quds Day will not receive a permit to conduct their hateful protest. Indeed, a CIJA staff member filmed the protest in 2011 – when it was virtually nowhere on the public’s radar – and released the footage to the media in order to draw attention to this shameful event,” he said.

“For the last four years CIJA, has worked with MPPs from all parties and engaged the Speaker and sergeant-at-arms on this issue. This year, in late April, we spoke with key staff of MPPs to inform them once again that Al-Quds Day was on the horizon. While we value free speech, our provincial legislature should never be abused as a backdrop to promote hateful ideologies.”