If the residents of Toronto believe that City Hall’s chicanery ended with the departure of Rob Ford, they are sadly mistaken. This past Tuesday, a spectacle unfolded at City Hall that was as surreal and as morally bankrupt as anything we witnessed during the Ford administration.
The occasion for Mayor John Tory’s ethical nose-dive was an administrative inquiry submitted by right-wing Councillor James Pasternak. Pasternak’s dubious distinctions include his crusade against Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, a Toronto-based grassroots LGBT group. In his latest attempt to stifle critics of an apartheid regime, Pasternak took aim at Al Quds Day rallies held on city property. Specifically, Pasternak alleges that:
There has been a growing trend of hate-infested rallies being held in public spaces such as the anti-Semitic Al Quds Day rally in Toronto and there have been threats to host white supremacist and neo-Nazi rallies in Toronto similar to those in the United States.
For the past several years there has been an Al Quds Day rally held in Toronto outside Queen’s Park featuring speakers making anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks, spreading hatred, inciting violence and supporting of terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Al Quds Day was originally created to call for the destruction of the state of Israel. The rally in 2017 did not receive a permit to hold the event at Queen’s Park or from the City of Toronto, however the event proceeded.
Based on his unsubstantiated allegations, Pasternak requested that Council be provided information in response to the question “do the Toronto Police Service or City of Toronto have ability and what resources could they utilize to prohibit a rally that is inciting hatred and violence, such as Al Quds Day, white supremacist or neo-Nazi rallies, from taking place on city or provincial property in Toronto?”
Upon learning of Pasternak’s attack, the Al Quds Committee wrote to Mayor Tory, stating:
These are extraordinarily serious allegations for which Councillor Pasternak fails to cite an iota of evidence. We reject and object to these allegations in the strongest possible terms. In fact, the Al-Quds committee unequivocally condemns anti-Semitism, white supremacy and Nazism in all of their insidious forms. The mandate of our committee is profoundly anti-racist and is diametrically opposed to the goals of white supremacists, Nazis and other anti-Semites.
It is quite true that we are highly critical of the inhumane policies of the state of Israel, but so too is virtually the entire international community. The Canadian government itself recognizes on its Global Affairs website that Israel’s settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and are a “serious obstacle” to peace… In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled unanimously, and with the concurrence of the United States judge, that Israel’s settlements violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. Even worse, Amnesty International and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, among other human rights groups, have documented Israeli forces’ torture of Palestinian adults and even Palestinian children, and Israel’s use of collective punishment and extra-judicial assassination in violation of international law.
There is nothing remotely anti-Semitic about condemning these appalling human rights abuses and calling for sanctions to be imposed upon the state of Israel to bring these abuses to an end. On the contrary, based upon our extensive interactions with our brothers and sisters in the Jewish community, we believe that Israel’s conduct is an affront to Jewish values and in no way represents the Jewish people, despite the Netanyahu government’s claims to the contrary.
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