CAEF letter to Minister Lecce August 6 2021
August 6, 2021
Hon. Steven Lecce
Minister of Education
Government of Ontario
Dear Minister Lecce;
The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation is writing to you about the recent reinstatement by the Toronto District School Board of Javier Davila, a teacher whose behaviour constitutes direct and indefensible antisemitism. Mr. Davila was initially suspended, but then reinstated with no consequences, no discipline, and we find this to be totally unacceptable and demoralising to our Jewish community, and to people across the country who value our freedom, justice and democracy.
Our Education Committee has reviewed the documents that Mr. Davila posted on a TDSB site propagating hatred towards Israel and the Jewish people and descending into egregious falsehoods about that country. He purports to defend a country that does not now, nor ever has existed--Palestine. Our review was very lengthy and while we could refute his proposed curriculum line by line, it would make our report a book-length response. Instead we will highlight a few of the major errors in Davila’s intellectual pogrom. If you need more historical facts or scholarly references to aid in your understanding of Antisemitism or the Middle East, we would be pleased to provide them.
Jew hatred is a serious societal issue and one that must be challenged at every instance in which it appears. Our entire society is at risk when any community is singled out for hatred, which is clearly what Mr. Davila has boldly exhibited. It is no less serious than any other form of racism or religious hatred, and in fact, antisemitism is a form of discrimination and hatred that seems to rise above all others for its lasted for thousands of years, to morphed to suit whatever is fashionable to hate, and is expressed by blaming Jews for every evil known to man.
The Ministry of Education is singularly responsible for the curriculum in our publicly funded schools and therefore, the attempt that Mr. Davila made to install his biased anti-Israel curriculum across the TDSB ought to be dealt with by the Ministry as well as the TDSB.
While Javier Davila’s intention to deliver a noxious curricula was rightly called out and halted, he nevertheless went ahead and delivered an educational webinar to teachers, who were thus exposed to his lies, to material that undermines Canadian values, truth, educational integrity and the professional code of conduct for educators. Quite possibly the participants will not be able to distinguish the truth and have been blindsided by this noxious antisemitic material.
We ask that you immediately investigate how this situation has been managed by the TDSB and what corrective action has been and need be taken, to both discipline Mr. Davila, counter the curriculum he surreptitiously circulated, advise all teachers of the need to avoid biased, politically motivated, hateful, racist and antisemitic propaganda masquerading as academic material.
CAEF appreciates that your government values our children’s education, and supports Canadian values of diversity and inclusion, and would expect to deliver curricula based on facts. If the TDSB properly addresses this issue and publicly acknowledges this, hopefully no other boards in this province or elsewhere in Canada, will be plagued with such objectionable material and teacher prejudices.
Mr. Davila begins his report with the topic of antisemtism and proceeds with its relationship to Israel, “Palestine” and Zionism. However the root causes and full comprehension of this 3000 year-old phenomenon are totally ignored. One of our committee members has studied the phenomenon of antisemitism for years, exploring its roots and the societal paradigms, repetitious behaviour patterns, tropes and propaganda that provide fertile soil for Jew-hatred, and notes that animus against Jews has always remained on the margins of a free society, but today it has invaded our institutions and has taken an upsurge not seen since WWII. We understand an investigation did take place at the TDSB so we are astounded that any report on this matter could have been debated and dismissed based on the material that we and others reviewed and found horribly discriminatory, ahistorical, and antisemitic.
Mr. Davila has chosen to ignore historical evidence and international laws such as those pertaining to the re-constitution of the Jewish state in its original homeland. He thus provides no narrative that shows Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq came into being as states at exactly the same time and through the same mechanism.
Mr. Davila chooses to ignore or refute the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism. Unlike the authors of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance which spent a decade researching and discussing the matter, he decries the definition because it calls out his Jew hatred for what it is—applying a double standard to Israel, demonizing the country, denying Jews the right to self-determination—are all characteristics of antisemitism. His attitudes are the epitome of such hatred.
Mr. Davila ought to consider how non-uslims are treated in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, which pays Arabs to kill Jews, or Hamas, a terrorist entity, which is committed to the total destruction of the Jewish state, hence to genocice. Both regimes have cleansed themselves of Jews, almost eliminated their Christian populations entirely, punish LGBTQ people and apply a death sentence on their citizens for selling land to a Jew or befriending an Israeli in any expression of “normalization” as a means of peace. Were Davila to mis-represent the Asian experience, the Black experience or the Muslim experience, we have no doubt he would have been fired. Yet, he has been rewarded for denying the Jewish experience of antisemitism and denying the Jewish people the right to have a country in their ancient homeland.
By not applying the IHRA definition in assessing the damage done by Mr. Davila, the TDSB has sent the wrong message to the entire educational community of teachers, parents, students and board members, and betrayed the provincial government’s own position against antisemitims, and its adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Without this basic solid foundation and clarity about antisemitism, all opinion-based tributaries that Davida goes down, are dangerous to those who follow his ideas, dangerous for Jews and ultimately for Canada.
Here are a few very significant points referencing the falsehoods in Davila’s “curriculum,” and the flimsy nature of his unresearched and biased perspectives on Israel and the Middle East.
Davila has not embraced the true calculus of antisemitism in the modern world but disparages it, failing to adhere to the internationally accepted definition and its full implementation. Without demonstrating knowledge of repeated attacks, pogroms and persecution of the Jewish people throughout history, he promotes a false analogy about the Indigenous people in Canada and those Indigenous to the Middle East. The Jews are the Indigenous people of Israel, having dwelt there for over 3000 years, long before the Arab invasions, and millennia before Islam came to be.
No attention is given to the huge impact and routine teaching of Jew-hatred in the Arab world or the importance of the past political connection between Hitler and the Arabs, remnants of these ideas many immigrants have carried with them to our shores.
During the 1920s, post WW1, and before Israel became a reconstituted nation state, Arab oppositional riots to Jewish immigrants occurred. Before Jewish villages in Samaria and JUDEA were labelled settlements, before the word ‘occupation’ was applied, the Arabs living in the Mandate of Palestine, wanted the Jews who also lived there, gone.
The demise of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish rule led to the San Remo Declaration in 1920, fulfilling the Jewish dream, and the British promise of 1917 to encourage Jewish return to the land of their forefathers. Arab nationalism was just beginning to develop at that time. After WW1, the Supreme Council of the Allied Powers which included Britain, Japan, France, and Italy, honoured their promise to the Jews while giving the Arabs all of Transjordan. This land division reduced the area promised to the Jews and gave more than 2/3 of the Palestine Mandate, to the Hashemites to form Transjordan which did not sufficiently appease the rioting Arabs headed by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini.
Transjordan, later became Jordan after that country and four others attacked the new state of Israel and illegally held the historic Jewish area of JUDEA and Samaria. This Illegal occupation continued for 19 years until Israel liberated the area in a defensive war in 1967.
The local population of Jordan, which was and still is, the same people as those claiming “Palestinian” status within Israel’s borders as well as those in the disputed territories, rose up against the Jordanian Hashemite rule only to be slaughtered in what was a civil war referred to as Black September in 1970.
The people who lived in the Mandate area were all referred to as “Palestinians” until the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948. Thus there were Palestinian Jews, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian Arab Muslims. The appellate to the Arabs alone came about only in 1967 when Yassar Arafat chose to call the Arabs in the disputed area, “Palestinians”. They are not a distinct people or culture and continue to be a significant portion of the population of Jordan, and a large minority in surrounding Arab states.
Today there are 22 Arab Muslim states and one tiny Jewish state. The Jews have always been in the land, but with the mass murder of millions during the Holocaust, thousands made their way to Israel from Europe, followed by Jews from across the Middle East and North Africa who suffered incredible discrimination, exile, harassment, pogroms from their former Arab neighbours. Over 880,000 Jews were deprived of their citizenship and forced to leave but none remained a refugee!!
Antisemitism has the ability to morph according to fashionable dictates. Antisemitism arose under Christianity when Jews refused to convert. In the late 1800s (when the actual word antisemitism was coined by a German Jew hater) modern notions of national identity and racial significance were on the rise. At the same time Germany and the Arabs began a close relationship. This tight connection has a long history which came to play a key role in WW1, Ottoman Turks and the Germans were allies. Haj Amin al-Husseini and Hitler formed a bond based on Jew-hatred and their joint goal of eliminating the Jews in their midst. Propaganda flowed freely between these allies and several Arabs visited the first gas chamber designed for Jewish annihilation.
This past plays a huge role in understanding the reasoning behind the Arabs approach to Israel and why they repeatedly and consistently refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. In typical antisemitic style, current Palestinian Arab leaders falsely proclaim that it is Israel which has denied them a state when history proves it is Israel which has repeatedly offered land for peace and was the first to propose a two-state solution. The Arab leaders offered the three famous no’s, "no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel." The destruction of Israel remains a key principle in the Hamas Charter.
Mr. Minister, it is incumbent on you, the highest authority in education in Ontario, to rectify the situation, to examine how the TDSB managed the situation, and deferred any action to seriously demonstrate zero tolerance for antisemitism. You hold the power. You have the voice. History is what we should be promoting in our schools and not opinions or narratives of historical revision.
Our committee recommends a few books and three short videos be considered for inclusion in the public education system of our province. Foremost is the education of our teachers so that this experience is not repeated. There needs to be mandated training on recognizing and combating antisemitism, a requirement and training for Boards to adopt and implement the IHRA definition, and on countering such Jew hatred with more than nuance, more than Holocaust Education, but with an educational curriculum that gives full credence to the history of the Jewish people, their contributions to our Canadian society and the foundational values of our Judeo-Christian history.
We are open to providing further information, and look forward to your response.
Cc Andria Spindel, Executive Director, CAEF
Never Again? by Abraham H. Foxman
“If you question my insistence that anti-Zionism is Antisemitism don’t take my word for it.” Read this quote instead by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in a lecture at Harvard University.
“You declare that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: when people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews. This is God’s own truth…Zionism is nothing less than the dream ad ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their land…And what is anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all nations of the globe. It is discrimination against the Jews, my friend because they are Jews. In short it is Antisemitism.”
Letters to My Palestinian Neighbour, by Yossi Halevi
The Jewish Enemy, by Jeffrey Herf
Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East, by Barry Rubin & Wolfgang G. Schwanitz
The Farhud, Roots of the Arab-Nazi Alliance in the Holocaust, by Edwin Black
Rabbi Sacks on the connection between, antisemitism, anti-Zionism, Judaism and Israel