An image taken from the Shia TV website shows a speaker at last year’s Al-Quds Day at Queen’s Park. Last year’s rally featured several controversial speakers, including Zafar Bangash, an Islamic journalist and commentator from Toronto who called Israel an “apartheid state” of “oppressors and criminals,” and called for Muslims to “march” to liberate Palestine.
TORONTO -- Queen's Park will continue to allow a controversial anti-Israel rally to be held on the lawn of the legislature Saturday.
Approval comes despite outcry from the Jewish community and a possible confrontation between Muslim demonstrators and a hard-line Jewish group.
A demonstration that had been booked by an Islamic group marking Al-Quds Day, an annual international event started by former Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, marking the end of Ramadan and calling for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state, has once again been given a green light, according to a press release provided to QMI Agency late Thursday.
The decision to let the rally go ahead, made by Speaker Dave Levac, came after a meeting Thursday morning between Levac, sergeant-at-arms Dennis Clark and a member of the Jewish community following "concerns that have been raised" in the media about the planned rally.
The day before, the Jewish Defence League of Canada (JDL) vowed to have its supporters confront Al-Quds demonstrators head-on at the rally.
According to Levac's statement, "organizers have indicated their understanding of and willingness to conform to all stipulated guidelines."
It goes on to say that the rally will be watched closely by Toronto police and Queen's Park security, and that any displays of "discrimination or hatred" will "inform our decision to grant permission for future events."
The statement also says "the right of citizens to assemble and exercise freedom of speech on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly" must be protected.
At last year's Queen's Park rally, Muslim journalist Zafar Bangash called Israeli nationalists "oppressors and criminals," referred to Israel as an "apartheid" state and called the Zionist movement of securing Israel as the Jewish homeland "oppressive."
As Bangash spoke, supporters waved the flag of Hezbollah, a Middle-Eastern terrorist group.
Howard English of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs tried to convince Queen's Park to change its mind about allowing the rally to take place on government property.
"We're deeply disappointed," English said, calling the rally an "indignity" to Ontario's legislature.
"We think that what happened last year has be taken into account and you can't ignore the ugly, vile ... statements that were made last year because you've received assurances this year that the rhetoric will be toned down... It's like putting icing on a bad cake."
Meir Weinstein of the JDL maintained that large numbers of his supporters will be at Queen's Park to "counter" the messages of Al-Quds demonstrators.
"I really don't know what's going to happen, but we'll be there," Weinstein said. "We can't let this kind of activity go unanswered."
E-mails to Al-Quds organizers went unanswered, and comments from Levac and Clark were not immediately available.