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Jewish Defence League members planning anti-Islam ‘death march’ at Toronto Pride parade

Members of the far-right group will carry fake severed heads, caskets and anti-Islamic signs

A Jewish Defence League member protested outside Pride Toronto’s office on April 15, 2011. Credit: Andrea Houston/Daily Xtra

Members of the Jewish Defence League plan to march in the Toronto Pride parade, Xtra has learned.

They are planning what they call a “death march” that will include fake severed heads, caskets, drums and a litany of anti-Islamic signs.

JDL is a far-right Jewish group active in Canada. It was founded on the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who called for the removal of Arabs from Israel. 

In a live-feed posted to JDL national director Meir Weinstein’s Facebook page on June 20, 2017, the group discussed its plans to march alongside the International Center for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization registered for the parade that opposes human rights abuses in Iran and neighbouring countries. JDL is not registered to march in the parade.

“We’re going there to cause some shit,” said Doc von Lichtenberg, who was standing beside Weinstein at the podium of a JDL meeting. Von Lichtenberg is also the president of LGBTory, a queer organization affiliated with the Conservative parties of Canada and Ontario. 

“The lefties are going to lose their shit,” he said. “Black Lives Matter is totally controlling the whole setup.”

In the live-feed video, Von Lichtenberg said that he needs 40 or 50 JDL members to come to the parade and that masks would be available for anyone who didn’t want to be identified.

Some of the signs that the group intends to carry include:

“Defeat the Islamist death cult.”

“Where are the voices of moderate Muslims?”

“Stop mutilating your daughter’s genitals.”

“Islam is flawed by intolerance to others”

“Qatar rips and hangs gays.”

“Saudi Arabia stones gays to death.”

“Toronto imam says punishment for gays equals death.”

In the video, Von Lichtenberg said that many gay Muslims are unwilling to speak out against Islam.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of gays in the Muslim community, they want nothing to do with this, they want nothing to do with making noise about Islam,” he said. “They’re from wealthy families, because their families are part of the regime. So you know, they talk out of both sides of their mouth.”

Ardeshir Zarezadeh, the executive director of ICHR, wrote in an email to Xtra that “any human rights defender can join us in this peaceful march,” but maintained ICHR has no affiliation with JDL or any other group.

“No one will allowed to march with us if they have signs of other groups,” he wrote.

LGBTory also says that they have no connection with JDL and that LGBTory is not even registered to march in this year’s parade.

“Any members of LGBTory who participate in the JDL are doing so on their own without any endorsement from or official connection to LGBTory Canada,” Eric Lorenzen, VP communications for LGBTory, wrote in an email to Xtra.

Von Lichtenberg did not respond to a request for comment.

Weinstein told Xtra that JDL members will be marching, but JDL as an organization is not officially participating. 

“[They] just want to highlight some of the issues in the Islamic world where gays are murdered, and persecuted,” he said. 

When asked if the severed heads and coffins were appropriate, Weinstein said that sometimes that kind of forwardness is necessary. 

“I do think that sometimes you have to be a little bit in your face to get people to wake up,” he said. “I think it’s about time to tell the truth about what’s going on in other countries throughout the world with respect to the gays.”

Pride Toronto did not respond to a request for comment. 

JDL clashed with Pride in 2011

The Canadian arm of JDL was active in fighting the neo-Nazi Heritage Front in the early 1990s, but are now focused on the followers of Islam, who they see as a threat to Jews. 

The United States FBI considered the now defunct US branch of JDL to be a terrorist organization, but there is no indication that the Canadian branch has ever participated in terrorist activities. 

The Southern Poverty Law Centre says that the JDL is a “radical organization that preaches a violent form of anti-Arab, Jewish nationalism.”

JDL members act as muscle at the frequent anti-Islam and anti-Muslim demonstrations in Toronto and Ottawa and, occasionally, in the United States. They also provide informal security for Rebel Media events, such as the anti M-103 rally held in February. 

Some JDL members are openly hostile to demonstrators and critical journalists. One member recently turned himself in for the alleged assault of an employee of the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at an anti-Muslim demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on May 6, 2017. Another member has been charged with a hate crime for the assault of a Palestinian professor in Washington, DC. 

JDL has clashed with Pride Toronto in the past. In 2011, JDL organized a protest outside of Pride Toronto’s offices in response to the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid in the parade.

“During the Nazi era, many high-ranking Nazis were gay,” the JDL Facebook invitation for the protest read.

During the protest, Xtra reported that one JDL supporter shouted “We’ll be back, fags,” while another threatened a reporter by saying “You’re lucky there’s cops here.”