Around two thousand people, predominantly Shia Muslims, answered the call of the Islamic Republic of Iran to commemorate (July 11) the annual al-Quds Day in the last week of the month of Ramadan as an expression of unwavering commitment to liberate all Palestine from the “Zionist occupation.”
The participants in the pro Iranian rally in front of the American Consulate in Toronto held signs condemning Israel of committing “crimes” against the Palestinian people, flags of Palestine, Iran and Syria (of Assad regime) and a picture of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Repeatedly they chanted: [PM Steven] Harper you will see, Palestine will be free from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea,” “Zionism is racism,” “from Iraq to Palestine the occupation is a crime,” “viva viva Palestina, viva viva Intifada [all-out struggle that includes terrorist attacks].”
Al-Quds Day rally started with reciting verses of the Quran. The first verse praised the Muslims martyrs who were killed in the course of jihad: “And never think of those who have been killed in the cause of Allah as dead. Rather, they are alive with their Lord, receiving provision” (ولا تحسبن الذين قتلوا في سبيل الله أمواتا بل أحياء عند ربهم Surat ‘Āli `Imrān, 169). This Quranic verse is commonly used by the Iranian regime and all Islamic terrorist organizations for recruiting Muslims to suicide mission attacks by promising them eternal life in heaven as a reward for sacrificing their life for the cause of Islam.
Coincidentally, exactly at the time this specific verse was being recited, the pro Israeli demonstrators on the northern side of the street played in loud volume a song of the late Israeli singer Ofra Haza “I’m still alive” (words: Ehud Manor, music: Avi Toledano): “I’m asking and praying. It’s good [for us] that the hope has not yet been lost… I’m still alive, alive, alive, the people of Israel is still alive.” Ironically, the message about the eternal life of the mujahideen who became “martyrs” got mixed together with the message of hope and survival of the Jewish people.
Karin Brothers of the United Church Canada was honoured to be the first speaker. She accused Israel of “atrocities” in Gaza and encouraged the audience by saying that Israel is losing the battle against the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. Warning of the “unlimited powers” granted to CSIS by Bill C-51, Brothers urged Canadians not to vote for the Conservative Party in the upcoming elections, but to a party that intends to repeal the Bill.
Ken Stone, a long time activist with “Independent Jewish Voices,” (IJV) focused his speech on IJV’s public struggle aimed to prompt the CRA to revoke JNF-Canada’s charitable status. He called the participants in a recent fund-raising Negev Dinner in Hamilton, “social parasites” who are aiding a “racist” organization, which executes a policy of “ethnic cleansing” and “colonialism.” Israel was described by Stone as an illegitimate entity that has to be liberated entirely by the Palestinians the “indigenous” people of Palestine. In addition, he accused Israel of cooperating and supporting al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra.
Dr. Nazij Khatatba, a board member of the Palestine House in Mississauga, called upon Canadians not to give their vote to the Conservative Party because of its unconditional support of Israel and Bill C-51 which, according to Khataba, restricts the freedom of Canadians to criticize Israel or to call for embracing the BDS. He rejected any possible political solution to the conflict that will not include Jerusalem and emphasized the Palestinian commitment to implement the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their homes and land. His speech ended with chanting the following: “Free Palestine, down with Israel, down with Harper.” Fadlu Michael (فضلو ميخائيل), the President of the Palestine House, and Monira Kitmitto, a former board member of the Palestine House (till December 2014) also attended the al-Quds Day rally.
Hassan Mujtahidi, a young Canadian Shiite Muslim, read, as he did last year, a poem aiming at Prime Minister Steven Harper, whom he called a “Zionist Puppet” because of his “criminal support of Zionism.” Mujtahidi said: “ it is the beginning of the third Intifada… the clock is ticking, the time is coming. Zionism will crash and you [PM Harper] will have to decide: justice or genocide. Mr. Puppet, it is time to start making decisions… the Intifada in in the making.”
Ali Mallah, a former Vice President of the Canadian Arab Federation and a staunch supporter of Iran and Hezbollah, opened his speech chanting “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free.” Following the line of other speakers who harshly attacked PM Harper, Ali Mallah said: Harper “does not speak for us as Canadians. He does not represent all Canadians. The majority of Canadians are against Bill C-51, and also this government is a divisive government, is anti Muslim, anti unions, anti social justice groups, anti environmental groups. So, we are in a good company and they are with the bad company, with the occupiers and the killers.”
The Canadian Shiite cleric of Al-Mahdi Centre, Syed Asad Jafri, portrayed Zionism as the cause of all evils in the world. “We’re obsessed with ISIS, we’re obsessed with ISIL, we’re obsessed with Taliban, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, al-Nusra, al-Shabab so on and so forth. We consumed our energy towards the branches of the tree, while we don’t realize that every other branch is going down to the root, and the root of any act of injustice (ظلم) in this world is Zionism. If you want to uproot the oppression in the world, leave ISIS alone, leave al-Qaida alone, leave a-Nusra alone, leave Boko Haram alone, follow the path to that institution, that ideology that breeds this group, that feeds this group, that plump this group up with all sort of military weapons and medical treatment. Conquer that point and everything else will begin to fall all by itself. We’re consuming branches. I ask you now to uproot the tree of Zionism today. Down with Zionism.”
Zafar Bangash, the Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), and president of the Islamic Society of York Region, called the activists of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) “criminals” and mercenaries,” who came to protest against al-Quds Day only because they were given free beer. Bangash called for overthrowing the Saudi regime and defeating PM Harper in October federal elections. “I want all of you to, please, come out and send these Zionist puppets back home. If Harper wants to go to live in Israel he can go there. He does not belong in Canada. He is a Zionist puppet… the Zionism is racism, the Zionist ideology is anti human, the Zionists are against humanity… their end is coming near.”
Once the official ceremony came to an end, the Shiite Muslim clerics accompanied by four Neture Karta rabbis, who came to express solidarity with the message of al-Quds Day, lead the crowd in its march towards Ontario Legislature building at Queen’s Park. While passing by the Pro Israel protesters offensive comments were traded. Beefed up Police forces separated between the two groups preventing any close physical friction that might spark a violent confrontation.
JDL activists arrived to the protests equipped with variety of signs demonstrating the Iranian role in terrorism and violation of human rights as well as flags of Canada, Israel, the City of Jerusalem and JDL. Mark Vandermaas, a civil rights activist and a founder of the Israel Truth Week, a one day conference meant to counter the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), stressed in his speech that the Jews are the indigenous people and the legal owners of Eretz Israel (Palestine).