CAEF Letter to Dr. Jill Andrew - Feb 28, 2022

February 28, 2022


Dr. Jill Andrew, MPP

Toronto-St. Paul’s

Room 115, Main Legislative Building

Toronto ON M7A 1A5


Dear Dr. Andrew:


We are writing to offer acknowledge and commend you for the principled questions you raised in the Ontario Legislature on February 24, this year, advocating for mandatory Holocaust education in the Ontario curriculum, and supporting the call by the Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for an emergency investigation into antisemitism at schools operated by the Toronto District School Board (“TDSB”). We note that these are not one-off questions on your part. Yours has been a consistently strong voice in the Legislature denouncing antisemitism for many years, reflecting serious commitment on the relevant issues.


Nevertheless, we must say that we are confused and disappointed about some social media entries you made back in July and August 2021 expressing support for TDSB Student Equity Program Advisor Javier Davila. Given your overall highly positive statements of solidarity with Ontario’s Jewish community in the face of various incidents of antisemitism, the only logical explanation is a lack of information on the nature and gravity of the materials that Mr. Davila posted. Therefore, please permit us to provide some background and context.


Mr. Davila is currently facing an Ontario College of Teachers investigation for distributing two mailouts to TDSB teaching colleagues in May 2021.[1] Mr. Davila would have you believe that he was unfairly targeted for merely circulating educational materials advocating the human rights of Palestinians.[1] That is a self-serving distortion of the truth.


1. Both of Mr. Davila’s mailouts contained a link to the online propaganda library of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (“PFLP”).[1] The PFLP is designated as a terrorist entity by Public Safety Canada.


Public Safety Canada’s rationale for including the PFLP in its list of designated terrorist entities includes the following statement:


“In 2000, the PFLP turned increasingly to the use of suicide bombers, guerilla tactics, car bombings, and mortar strikes. The PFLP was also responsible for the first assassination of a cabinet minister in Israel's history, killing Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in 2001. In 2014, the PFLP claimed responsibility for a November gun and knife attack at an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in West Jerusalem that killed 6 people.” [1]


One of the 6 people killed was former Toronto resident Howie Rothman. [2]

  1. Both of Mr. Davila’s mailouts contained a link to “My People Shall Live” -- the self-justifying autobiography of serial airplane hijacker Leila Khaled.[3]

  2. Both of Mr. Davila’s mailouts contained a link to a pamphlet by the “New England Committee to Defend Palestine” that called suicide bombing “martyrdom operations” and a "legitimate means of resistance".[4]

  3. Here’s an extract from one of the articles linked to in both of Mr. Davila’s mailouts: “If the Israeli Zionists believe their present occupation of Arab Palestine is the fulfillment of predictions made by their Jewish prophets, then they also religiously believe that Israel must fulfill its “divine” mission to rule all other nations with a rod of iron, which only means a different form of iron-like rule, more firmly entrenched even, than that of the former European Colonial Powers. These Israeli Zionists religiously believe their Jewish God has chosen them to replace the outdated European colonialism with a new form of colonialism, so well disguised that it will enable them to deceive the African masses into submitting willingly to their “divine” authority and guidance, without the African masses being aware that they are still colonized.”[5]

As antisemitism expert Bernie Farber advised the OCT in another recent case, antisemites frequently use the term “Zionists” as a “convenient effigy when it is inexpedient to talk about Jews.” [6] The quotes outlined above are salacious and hideous lies that perpetrate hatred of Jews, Judaism and the Jewish state of Israel.


Please note that the distribution of such hate material was mentioned on December 1, 2021, by TDSB Integrity Commissioner Suzanne Craig in her report dealing with a complaint made against TDSB Trustee Alexandra Lulka for communicating with her constituents about Mr. Davila's mailouts. In this report, Commissioner Craig said that the mailouts "could be reasonably considered to contain antisemitic materials and seen to be contributing to antisemitism. In particular, some of these materials note that “martyrdom operations (called “suicide bombing”) are a legitimate means of resistance." [7]


Commissioner Craig continued: "There are some links to resources that support the use of violence and terrorism against Israeli Jews; specifically, a link to the website of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a group that is currently on Canada’s Listed Terrorist Entities), documentary and resources about Leila Khaled who was involved in plane hijackings, and an interview with Ghassan Kanafani, who was involved in violent actions against civilians." [8]


Now that you have seen some of the details of what Mr. Davila actually said, we hope you understand why the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community has been horrified and infuriated by these mailouts, and by an investigatory process at the TDSB that inexplicably purported to clear him of wrongdoing. [9] The CAEF has no desire to censor or shut down advocacy for the human rights of Palestinian Arabs or authentic Palestinian Arab voices, but we’re sure you would agree that sending out links to pro-terrorist websites and propaganda articles claiming that Zionists consider the deception of “African masses” to be a religious duty, is shameful and completely unacceptable.


In light of this information, about which we trust you may not have been previously aware, we are asking you to publicly withdraw your previously expressed support for Mr. Davila.


We are also asking for your support regarding the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation’s call for the OCT to issue a Professional Advisory statement on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial/Distortion, building on the excellent Professional Advisory on anti-Black racism issued by the OCT in December 2021.[10] The weekly incidents of antisemitism at TDSB schools – four in the last month alone (i.e., Ledbury Park, Charles H. Best, Valley Park, Pleasant Avenue) – which you described in your speech in the Legislature, testify to the magnitude and gravity of the problem. The OCT’s decisions in the recent cases of Joseph DiMarco[11] and Debbie Kasman (copies attached) show that these are not just random incidents of misguided or disturbed students; sometimes it’s teachers and retired school superintendents who ought to know better. As further background, we refer you to the open letter we sent to every Ontario public school board trustee[12], and a reply letter we received from the Halton District School Board (copy attached).


Why are we writing to you on this point? We started our campaign by writing to OCT Registrar Derek Haime. We received in reply a polite letter in which Dr. Haime said:


“Each year, as part of our routine resource development processes, we gather information to determine gaps in supports available to teachers in their ongoing efforts to create safer and more inclusive learning spaces, and how we can best develop new tools, including professional advisories, that address those gaps. Your offer of contributing to a professional advisory on antisemitism is appreciated and will be carefully considered alongside similar offers we have received from other advocacy groups as we initiate that process again in the new year.”


We are sure you would agree that ‘thank you for your input we’ll get back to you’ is not good enough. Ontario’s Jewish community, and all Ontarians, deserve better. We’re asking you to rise once again in the Legislature to demand action and commitment from Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and the OCT so that combatting antisemitism moves to the front of their policy agenda.


We are happy to meet with you to further discuss these requests, and we thank you once again for standing up against antisemitism in the Ontario Legislature.


Yours very truly,



Andria Spindel,

Executive Director

Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation

 

[1] https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/lstd-ntts/crrnt-lstd-ntts-en.aspx#51

[2] https://thecjn.ca/news/international/howie-rothman-dies-of-his-injuries/ [3] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1YFvRK24tdTQmbktMDxKKI6Jb4MX-ZlqZ/view Page 50. [4] http://www.onepalestine.org/resources/flyers/MythHistory.pdf [5] https://churchills-karma.com/2020/06/28/malcolm-x-on-zionism-zionist-logic/ [6] Ontario College of Teachers v. Joseph Biagio Dimarco, Exhibit “H” obtained by CAEF under the rules of the OCT Discipline Committee; available upon request. [7] https://pub-tdsb.escribemeetings.com/FileStream.ashx?DocumentId=9877Page page 38. [8] Id, page 39. [9] https://thecjn.ca/news/canada/jewish-groups-seek-explanation-after-tdsb-employee-reinstated/ [10] https://www.oct.ca/-/media/PDF/professional_advisory_ABR/Professional_Advisory_ABR_EN.pdf [11] https://oct.ca/ShowDocument.pdf?documentType=Decision&id=1680&lang=E [12] https://www.caef.ca/post/calling-on-school-board-trustees-to-pro-actively-address-antisemitism

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