March 29, 2009
TORONTO (JTA) – A Canadian Jewish group is asking the government to consider barring two Palestinian clerics scheduled to speak in Toronto next month from entering the country.
The Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center say Ekrima Sabri say the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who is to speak at Toronto’s Palestine House, has publicly supported suicide bombings, questioned the Holocaust and preached hatred against Jews.
The group cites an interview with an Egyptian paper in which Sheikh Sabri allegedly said, "I am filled with rage toward the Jews. I have never greeted a Jew when I came near one. I never will. The Jews do not dare to bother me, because they are the most cowardly creatures Allah has ever created."
The other cleric, Atallah Hanna, the Archbishop of Sebastia from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, has described Jerusalem as an "Arab city," the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a news release.
The two clerics are scheduled to speak at an April 5 event sponsored by Palestine House, an educational, cultural and social centre for the Toronto-area Palestinian community.
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal says “these Jerusalem-based clerics will likely offer a divisive message of hate, racism and radicalization to Canadian audiences; one that incites violence over dialogue."
B’nai Brith Canada also has conveyed concerns to federal officials over Sabri, who, the group says, "has devoted his entire career to vilifying Jews, denying the Holocaust and inciting children to become ‘martyrs’. That Palestine House has chosen to invite this individual to be their keynote speaker speaks volumes about the values the organization is promoting."
A spokesman for Palestine House called both men "moderate."
The controversy comes just days after Ottawa banned pro-Hamas British MP George Galloway from entering Canada — a move greeted positively by B’nai Brith and Canadian Jewish Congress.