Ontario government approves anti-Israel rally


TORONTO (JTA) — Jewish groups are decrying the approval of an anti-Israel rally on the grounds outside of Ontario’s provincial capital.

A rally by an Islamic group marking International Al-Quds Day, a commemoration begun in 1979 by Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini to mark the last Friday of Ramadan, was approved by the sergeant-at-arms of Ontario’s Legislature building in Toronto. The rally is scheduled for Aug. 18 on grounds that surround the building, known as Queen’s Park.

Last year’s rally heard from several speakers who called Israel an "apartheid state" of "oppressors and criminals." One speaker said, "I see that day when we, the Muslims, will march on Palestine and liberate Palestine … under Islamic law."

Jewish groups say last year’s event offended Canadian values and violated the park’s terms of use. They say permission for this year’s rally should have been denied because public spaces should not be used to voice anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment.

Anita Bromberg of B’nai Brith Canada said her organization approached the sergeant-at-arms, Dennis Clark, to learn who filed the application to hold this year’s event so they "could touch base with this group and express (their) concerns directly." The request was denied because of privacy policies, Bromberg told the Toronto Sun.

The Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said "the endorsement of hate" is "a matter of public safety."

"This is no longer a debate about free speech versus hate speech," said the Canadian Friends’ CEO Avi Benlolo. "This is an insult to all Ontarians and a simple matter of right and wrong."

Clark told the Canadian Jewish News that he met with rally organizers 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."

He said this year’s rally will be monitored "closely" for violations of hate laws.

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