Minister Orders ‘Offensive’ Video Removed From Classroom

July 29, 2020 – Ontario’s education minister has ordered the removal from the curriculum of an anti-Israel video that was used in the classroom.

The video was part of the curriculum in a Grade 10 online civics course, and accused “Zionists” of human rights violations, including depriving Palestinians of water.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce

In a tweet on July 28, Education Minister Stephen Lecce stated: “Very concerned that this offensive material was on a learning website. Working with @gilamartow, I immediately ordered it to be taken down (it was that day) & investigated to ensure it never happens again. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form.”

In a statement on July 28, York Region District School Board (YRDSB) said it removed what it called the “biased” video from use in the classroom.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre reported on July 27 that according to the video, “the current occupation of the Palestinian land by the Zionists have [sic] violated the human rights of the Palestinians. They have deprived the Palestinians of natural resources, such as water, and taking [sic] the majority of it for themselves. The Zionists that are granted these privileges are backed by the military…This conflict continues to rage on because the Israelis continue to live as occupiers while the Palestinians live under occupation.”

After confirming with a YRDSB trustee that the video was part of the official curriculum, FSWC wrote to Lecce for confirmation that the video has been removed from the curriculum for all courses in the province.

When a parent complained to the YRDSB about the video, it was removed from the course’s online portal, FSWC said.

“It has come to our attention that during an e-learning Civics and Careers Continuing Education course, a video that showed a biased point of view on the Israel/ Palestinian conflict was shared with online participants,” said Louise Sirisko, YRDSB Director of Education, in a statement.

She said the video was created and distributed by e-Learning Ontario and is included in the resources for the revised e-Learning Civics and Careers curriculum. This particular video was part of a selection of four videos that are available to all school boards in Ontario, Sirisko noted.

“While this is not a YRDSB video, or a YRDSB course, we would like to be clear that we do not support the sharing of biased content or misinformation to students. We brought this to the attention of the Ministry of Education’s E-Learning Ontario, and the video has been reviewed and removed from the resources available to school boards.

“YRDSB continues to work to create learning spaces, including virtually, that are safe, welcoming and inclusive.

“We are disappointed that some of our students were hurt by this video and please know that the views expressed are not indicative of the beliefs of the YRDSB school community. If parents have concerns about their child and feel that they need additional support, please do not hesitate to contact your child’s school,” Sirisko added.

In the letter to Lecce, FSWC’s Director of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, wrote, “We are absolutely appalled by this biased anti-Israel video, which vilifies the Jewish people of Israel and contains dangerous misinformation.”

While FSWC said it “appreciates” the response from Lecce and the YRDSB, it awaits a reply to how such a video ended up in the resources for the Civics and Careers curriculum and was approved by the Ministry of Education, “as well as what steps will be taken to prevent the distribution of such dangerous misinformation to Ontario school boards in the future.”

– CJR Staff

EDITORIAL: Annexation Will Destroy Hopes for Peace

Over the course of the last 50 plus years, the dire need for a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis has always occupied the minds of world leaders. When there were breakthroughs, be it former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s recognition of the Palestinian people, the Oslo agreement or former prime minister Ehud Barak’s attempt at a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing seemed to work.

For those who longed for a settlement, it seemed a stalemate, as inadequate as that was, still left open the possibility of peace.

But, as of this week, Israel’s plans to annex a portion of the occupied territories, though temporarily on hold for reasons unknown, still seem to be careening toward some form of completion. Annexation in any form will destroy the hopes for a Middle East peace. Indeed, if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for a fuller annexation come to fruition, the chances of Israel’s very survival as a Jewish state may well come into question.

The plans set forth cannot help but render impossible any contemplation of a contiguous Palestinian state. Many Jews in the Diaspora have railed against Netanyahu’s plans. Even the stalwart American Jewish Committee, which has always found ways to defend some of Israel’s harshest policies, warned in a recent article that in annexation, “The price will be borne in the erosion of Israel’s longstanding claims against Palestinian unilateralism, in breach of Oslo Accords promises, and in increasing cynicism in multiple constituencies – including within our own community – about Israel’s commitment to peace.”

Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest and most successful pro-Israel lobbying group on Capitol Hill, has, according to the Times of Israel,  let it be known that while it will not publicly criticize Israel, it will also not cry foul if others do so, as long as the criticism stops at the issue of annexation.

Here in Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has been quiet about annexation, but given its usual full-throated support of anything Netanyahu offers, its silence speaks volumes.

Progressive Zionist organizations have rejected any idea of annexation. A recent letter written by New Israel Fund, Jspace Canada and Canadian Friends of Peace Now and signed by many well-known Canadian Jewish writers, thinkers and advocates (including Bernie Farber publisher of the CJR), was adamant in its opposition to annexation. In part, the letter read, “An annexation agenda assails not only Palestinian rights and national aspirations but also Israel’s founding values as outlined in its Declaration of Independence. Illegal under international law, unilateral annexation could provoke a new cycle of violence, lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, undermine Israel’s security and further destabilize the region.”

We continue to dream of a negotiated two-state solution. We fear that without it, Israel as a safe haven for Jews, as a democratic state that embraces the concepts of freedom and human rights will disappear. Jews of good conscience can no longer be silent.