On Friday, February 17, a professional development (PD) program was hosted at a downtown Toronto high school which featured problematic anti-Israel disinformation.
The session entitled: “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Nakba Denial,” was organized by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) District 12, and was offered to teachers in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) during a PD day.
As noted by the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation (CAEF) in a news article covering this issue in The Toronto Sun on February 19, the session purported to be about combatting anti-Palestinian racism in Toronto public schools but was in fact filled with anti-Israel content.
One of the slides in the presentation referred to “Al Nakba,” meaning “the catastrophe” in Arabic, as being “the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the consolidation of the State of Israel in 1948.” Despite this being one of the most common tropes parroted by anti-Israel critics, the nascent Jewish State did not commit ethnic cleansing or anything remotely resembling it, either in 1948 or since.
While Israel’s War of Independence – which began when the country’s Arab neighbours invaded the newly reborn Jewish nation-state – did see hundreds of thousands of Arabs displaced, many left for a variety of reasons, including actively being encouraged to do so by Arab leaders at the time.
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, since 1948, the population of Palestinian Arabs, both within Israel and in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, has increased by more than five-fold.
In addition to presenting extremely misleading figures, the presentation gave no mention whatsoever to the wholesale destruction of ancient Jewish history in Jerusalem during the city’s Jordanian occupation during the War of Independence, when the country’s soldiers destroyed hundreds of synagogues and desecrated the Western Wall, a venerated Jewish holy site.
Under a slide entitled “How do we talk about Palestine/Israel,” the presentation makes a number of deeply problematic recommendations for how educators should discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There are four topics listed on the slide: conflict, occupation, apartheid, and settler-colonialism. Under the “Apartheid” category, for example, the presentation states that it “refers to two sets of laws on one land to govern people based on race, religion, nationality…”
Despite this leading statement and the popular use by anti-Israel activists of the apartheid claim, this argument is a non-starter.
Israel provides full and equal rights to all Israelis, regardless of race or religion. Israeli Arabs – both Muslims and Christians – have achieved the highest echelons of Israeli society, including art, science, politics, the judiciary, and business.
In Judea & Samaria (often called the “West Bank” by the news media), not only do the vast majority of Palestinians live under the civil control not of Israel, but of the Palestinian Authority (PA), but more importantly, the current circumstances, while complex, are not intended by Israel to be a permanent solution, but exists only until a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians takes place.
Simply put, the claim that Israel practices apartheid is unsupported by the facts, as Mesoia Lekota, South Africa’s Defense Minister from 1999 to 2008, made clear: “I tried to find a comparison between how we lived under the apartheid regime and the situation in Israel and I could not find one.”
Under the “Settler-colonialism” category, the presentation states that “occupation (is used) as one way to control Palestinians but removal of Palestinians and destruction of their memory is the main objective.”
This is a complete reversal of the truth and a profound instance of a lack of self-awareness.
The Jewish People have lived in the Land of Israel for three thousand years, and have survived multiple attempts to expel them, including at the hands of the ancient Babylonians, Romans, and others. By suggesting that “settler-colonialism” is somehow related to Israel, the authors of the presentation have all but erased three thousand years of Jewish history, all while claiming that Israel is attempting to destroy the memory of the Palestinians.
The presentation slides ended with a question to participants: “What would it mean to Palestinian youth if their teachers understood anti-Palestinian racism and Nakba Erasure and tried to combat it?”
The false and defamatory claim that Israel committed ethnic cleansing on Arabs in 1948 has no basis in truth. Combatting the claim that “The Nakba,” or the denial of the Jewish People to have a nation-state in their historical ancestral homeland, somehow constitutes “anti-Palestinian racism,” is the height of absurdity.
The only racism evident in this presentation which was offered to Toronto schoolteachers and TDSB staff – courtesy of taxpayer dollars – was the complete rewriting of history to all but erase three millennia of Jewish presence in Israel, which today is home to half the world’s Jews.
Whatever one’s views are of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, teaching TDSB educational staff about the topic should be done with nuance and a respect for the truth. This presentation, conversely, was a master-class in passing off ideology as history.
While The Toronto Sun commendably covered this distressing use of taxpayer resources to peddle anti-Israel propaganda, where is the widespread outrage and coverage from other Canadian news media outlets like the Toronto Star, CBC News, Global News, and CTV News?
This article was originally posted on the HonestReporting Canada website and can be accessed here.