Antisemitism at the Toronto District School Board has led to a backlash that the Board undoubtedly did not expect. It was high time that the largest school Board in Canada, and the fourth largest in North America, faced accountability regarding its use of public funds to promote a pro-Palestinian agenda as part of its “equity” and “diversity” program. The Board’s actions go back to Operation Guardian of the Walls in May, and climaxed with the targeting of a Jewish school board trustee who was taken to the woodshed by the Board for pointing out a disturbing incident of antisemitism displayed by the TDSB’s equity advisor.
The backlash has been unprecedented, involving virtually every Jewish group and supporter of democracy in the Toronto area, and includes a rare statement by the Toronto Board of Rabbis. It ultimately resulted in a victory, in a groundbreaking, precedent-setting vote put to the TDSB Trustees to strike down an antisemitic motion. The battle was intense, and demonstrated what collective determination for the good could accomplish.
Enter Black Lives Matter, Pro-Palestinian Activist
The complicated series of events that led to the storm began in late September, when author and activist Desmond Cole was hired by the Toronto District School Board to give a talk about anti-black racism. Cole veered off course to lecture teachers and administrators about “Palestine.” He claimed that “those troubled by the phrase ‘Free Palestine’ have a vested interest in the continued oppression of Palestinian people.”
He went on to interrupt and talk over superintendent Lorraine Linton and executive superintendent Shirley Chan, stating:
“If people interpret ‘Free Palestine’ as being violent, it is because they are benefitting from Palestinians being unfree…In the same way if you answer ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter,’ you must have some investment in Black lives being undervalued.”
Cole does not accept the idea that one could advocate for black lives and all lives at the same time. Under Canada’s constitution, of course, all are equal.
Cole should also be questioned about the Islamic State’s genocide against black Christians in Africa, and the countless blacks who are being murdered by blacks in inner cities; this would reveal how much he really cares about black lives. Nor does he address the issue of blacks being held slaves in Mauritania, Sudan and Algeria by Arabs.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize an agenda behind Black Lives Matter, and gaping holes in that organization’s stated concern for black lives. The group’s co-founder, Patrisse Cullors, has also made clear the group’s support for the Palestinian jihad; she has “called for the ‘end’ of Israel at a 2015 panel hosted a Harvard Law School. Anything white is deemed as ‘the imperialist project.’”
Cole likewise ignores Palestinian history and Palestinian Charters that call for Israel’s obliteration. It is reprehensible that the TDSB would spend taxpayer money to subject staffers to Cole’s propagandist, discriminatory tirade. And this was the thanks the TDSP got in return: in a tweet, Cole “accused TDSB brass of directing Chan and Linton to derail his talk”:
The Board took at least some responsibility after the bad publicity and upheaval that ensued after Cole’s speech:
“Spokesperson Ryan Bird said it’s incumbent upon participants to interrupt and question speakers when content veers towards potentially problematic or inappropriate topics….‘it is clear that we should have done a better job in challenging any assertions that were hurtful or discriminatory’, he said.”
The BDS-supporting Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East subsequently launched a campaign of support for Cole, claiming that “Free Palestine” is about human rights, not hate.” This point was later addressed by the TDSB in a letter to a concerned citizen about the repeated incitement by pro-Palestinian groups to “free Palestine from the River to the Sea.”
Fast forward to the second week in November to a pro-Palestinian high school student classroom walkout and demonstration at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto. Over 200 students rallied to “Free Palestine”. The demonstration was organized in support of Desmond Cole and Javier Davila (discussed further down). Students reportedly chanted “anti-Israel slogans” and carried signs with the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free.” In a letter forwarded to be by email, the TDSB attempted to address a complaint about a disturbing pattern of Antisemitism within its domain….
Re: Visitor [XXX]’s Inquiry from [Toronto District School Board] Regarding [General Comment / Question]
Date: Fri, 19 Nov 2021 16:18:08 +0000
Thank you for your email.
The Toronto District School Board is committed to developing students’ critical thinking skills so they can understand complex issues from many different perspectives. Conversations about Israeli-Palestinian relationships and geopolitical issues have arisen in classrooms, between staff, students, and in professional development sessions. As a board, we have been grappling with how to honour multiple lived experiences and identities (e.g. Palestinian and Israeli) in ways that do not further exclude or cause harm.
As educators, we understand that language and context matter. The phrases “Free Palestine” and “From the River to the Sea” have been in contention. These expressions mean different things to different people because of the diversity of lived experiences in the TDSB community and beyond. Some members of the Jewish community have experienced these phrases as antisemitic, calling for the eradication of Israel, and hateful. Some Palestinians use these phrases as a statement of their human and land rights as people.
Discussions about human rights are often complex and include an examination of competing rights….
Competing rights? No other country struggles to maintain its existence on a daily basis, as does Israel. In a working definition of antisemitism, evidently not considered by the TDSB, the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance states:
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.
Palestinian Media Watch captures the full Palestinian agenda in Palestinian leaders’ own words. See HERE.
“From the River to the Sea” and the Influence of Javier Dávila, the TDSB’s Student Equity Program Advisor
Phrases such as “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” originated in the Palestinian territories. The words explicitly refer to an imperative to obliterate Israel entirely, “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” The phrase has a long history behind it. Fatah Commissioner and Central Committee member Tawfiq Tirawi declared:
Our Palestinian land is from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea. I dare any Palestinian, any senior Palestinian official, or any Palestinian leader to reduce the Palestinian map to the West Bank and Gaza! He would not be able to walk one meter in the streets of our Palestinian cities among our people! … Arab brothers… Be with the Palestinian people, the people that lives on land that is all holy and that is all waqf land (i.e., land that is an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law.)
The words “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” do not mean “different things to different people.” They are an open incitement for Palestinians to destroy Israel. This quest manifests itself in, among other things, the Pay-for Slay program, which pays Palestinians to kill Jews, as well as in the launching of rockets against Israeli citizens and the celebration of martyrdom, which is actively promoted in Palestinian culture. PA TV also routinely indoctrinates and encourages Palestinian adults and children alike to murder Jews.
The pro-Palestinian agenda is supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, and its offshoots like Hamas. For the Muslim Brotherhood, “Jihad is the way.“ Many Islamic authorities state that it is the highest calling and duty for Muslims everywhere to take up the cause of jihad.
The Muslim Brotherhood vision has for quite some time spread on campuses throughout North America.
More followed at the TDSB: In mid-July, B’nai Brith Canada expressed outrage over “the apparent reinstatement without discipline of a Toronto school employee who sent materials to teachers justifying the murder of Israeli civilians.” B’nai Brith noted:
Javier Dávila, a Student Equity Program Advisor with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), sent two emails to a list comprised of TDSB educators in May, as fighting between the Hamas terrorist group and Israel raged. The emails are filled with virulently anti-Israel teaching material, repeatedly describing Israelis as “colonizers” in their indigenous homeland.
Dávila announced that he has been reinstated without discipline.
Some of the materials go even further. Dávila’s emails contain writings by Laila Khaled and Ghassan Kanafani, prominent members of the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), another designated terrorist entity in Canada. One flyer promoted by Dávila, prepared by the “New England Committee to Defend Palestine,” even justifies Palestinian suicide bombings and accuses “Zionists” of plotting genocide against Palestinians.
Davila’s antisemitic messages resemble the propaganda that is routinely disseminated in the Palestinian territories. Yet in a sympathetic Washington Post article, Davila was presented as a hero of the oppressed who are suffering under “settler colonial violence’”.
TDSB Bans Former Yazidi Sex Slave and Nobel Prize Laureate and Censors Trustee for Raising an Antisemitism Problem
The TDSB even banned former Yazidi Islamic State sex slave survivor Nadia Murad, a Nobel laureate, to avoid appearing to be “Islamophobic.” The National Post stated:
From that pit of hell, she incredibly found the personal resources to escape, champion the cause of brutalized young women everywhere, and ascend to the heights of the world’s high honour, the Nobel Prize…. The equity department was concerned she would stoke Islamophobia!
Yes, that very same “equity” department in which Javier Dávila is a Student Equity Program Advisor.
In the latest incident, a TDSB Board Member Code of Conduct Complaint Investigation released a 50-page report after an investigation into Jewish school board Trustee Alexandra Lulka. The report stemmed from complaints launched against Lulka, who discovered in May that Javier Dávila had used “an opt-in email distribution list on gender-based violence to send out an information package for teachers about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Some of Dávila’s content has already been discussed above.
Lulka posted a statement on Twitter and Facebook:
“I was deeply disturbed to recently discover that virulently anti-Israel and even antisemitic materials were distributed to TDSB teachers through an opt-in list by a TDSB employee,” she wrote.
“I was outraged to discover that some of this material justifies suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism. This is reprehensible. These materials were provided by an employee from the TDSB equity department, the very department that should be countering antisemitism and violence, not fanning the flames.”
She said she would work “to ensure that none of these hateful materials ever see the inside of a TDSB classroom.”
Lulka demanded an investigation, but the investigation turned on her instead. Following the “formal complaints” for her post, the integrity commissioner “hired an independent human rights investigator to carry out a month-long probe.”
The integrity commissioner subsequently found that Lulka’s Twitter statement “fell within the TDSB definition of being discriminatory” because it might “perpetuate harmful anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian tropes by tying generally pro-Palestinian discourse to antisemitism and violence.”
The Commissioner’s report thus recommended that the Board censure Lulka.
The investigator reasoned that “equating pro-Palestinian materials with support or justification for suicide bombings and terrorism similarly may perpetuate the dangerous and harmful stereotype which views Muslims, and particularly Palestinian Muslims, ‘as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism and engaged in a ‘clash of civilizations.’”
The investigator was hardly impartial. According to B’nai Brith, lawyer Morgan Sim, who has repeatedly referred to Jews as “white,” implying that supporting them is “white supremacist,” was the “independent investigator.” Canada’s largest Jewish lobby, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), tweeted a concerning screenshot of a telling statement from Morgan Sim:
For a better look at Sim’s Tweet:
The National Council of Canadian Muslims Lobby and the TDSB
Meanwhile, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM, formerly CAIR-CAN) openly encouraged a public lobbying of other trustees to censure Lulka, stating that the report’s findings “raise a number of serious concerns about anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia.”
Jihad Watch has covered the NCCM a great deal. See HERE.
The NCCM was a recipient of an undisclosed amount of Liberal government funding (that is, taxpayer money) to help implement Canada’s big mistake: anti-Islamophobia motion M-103, a prelude to wide-ranging censorship of anything offensive to Islam. The M-103 outcome included government plans to monitor citizens for compliance and training law enforcement to identify online and offline “hate.” The implementation of M-103 was enabled by a taxpayer-funded 23-million-dollar package. Another recipient along with the NCCM to assist the Liberal government’s implementation of its M-103 strategy was Islamic Relief Canada (IRFAN), which was outlawed by the previous Conservative government as a terrorist entity.
The NCCM also backed the Toronto District School Board’s definition of “Islamophobia” for Islamic Heritage Month in 2017. The definition labeled “fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture” as “Islamophobia.”
The National Council of Canadian Muslims also called on its supporters “and fellow Canadians to write to the leadership and trustees of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to thank them for supporting Islamic Heritage Month and for taking a principled stand against Islamophobia.”
But as B’nai Brith Canada noted:
The Guidebook was designed by TDSB project co-chairs Nazerah Shaikh and Haniya Sheikh, with support from the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). The TDSB definition, if enforced, could lead to punishment for students or teachers who display “dislike” toward the persecution of LGTBQ people in the Islamic Republic of Iran, harsh restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia, and Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, all of which are examples of “Islamic politics”.
After an outcry, the definition was scaled back to exclude reference to politics.
Still, most parents have no idea of what their children are being taught in schools; all too often, the content of that teaching is decided upon by special interest political lobbyists.
Stopping Antisemitism at TDSB
In the latest TDSB hoopla, even the usually silent Toronto Board of Rabbis weighed in:
We must take issue when unvetted information that is clearly antisemitic is distributed within the school system and a trustee is taken to task for bringing attention to this.
A Provincial Member of Parliament, Gila Martow, also launched a Working Group Against Jew Hatred, which included incidents at the TDSB and other troubling trends.
The fever-pitch levels of antisemitism being brought to school children, which increasingly look like lessons taken from the Palestinian Authority, are deeply disturbing, yet were inevitable given the history of Palestinian propaganda incursions on university campuses across the continent. Now this initiative is expanding. The showdown with the TDSB will make it tough for the Board to continue to justify its habitual antisemitic stance, which up to now it has disguised as “conversations” about “equity,” “creating safe spaces” and an interest in “Palestinian human rights,” while censoring discussion about the Palestinian jihad against Israel, a practice to which Trustee Lulka alluded.
During a TDSB Board meeting Wednesday evening, a few members attempted to create a “safe space” for all students as they processed the issue through Western lenses. Some members genuinely expressed being torn, and not understanding the complex issue of the Middle East, but what was missing was a recognition of what the Palestinian agenda is really all about, or of the decades of attempts to delegitimize Israel and ultimately destroy it.
Finally, a motion was presented “that the Integrity Commissioner’s recommendation as presented in the report that Trustee Lulka breached rule 6.10 of the TDSB Code of Conduct, be rejected.” The TDSB vote after much deliberation, was 10-7 against the antisemitic move to censure Lulka.
Is the Board now prepared to stop open incitement of violence against the Jewish state and antisemitism in its schools? Or will it continue to try to censor speech that is offensive to pro-Palestinian sensibilities and some Muslim lobbies? This was a close win. Let’s hope that the TDSB has learned a lesson in this groundbreaking battle that managed to defeat the pro-Palestinian and NCCM agenda at the TDSB. For now, at least.