Letter to OSSTF Re: Concern about antisemitism in PD offered to OSSTF teachers
February 13, 2023
Toronto Teachers’ Bargaining Unit OSSTF Toronto 1482 Bathurst Street Suite 300 Toronto, Ontario M5P 3H1
Dear Mr. Kissel:
We are writing to express our grave concern about a professional development session being offered by OSSTF District 12 on Friday February 17 at Central Technical School. This workshop is conducted on paid professional development time for TDSB public school teachers. For that reason, we are copying the TDSB Director of Education and the Chair of the Board.
We are concerned about this workshop for three reasons:
1. The 1948-1949 Israeli War of Independence is a controversial period in history that requires a balanced and objective analysis. It does a serious disservice to Toronto's teachers, and the Jewish community, for these events to be presented in a one-sided manner, excluding any Israeli perspectives.
To paraphrase Chimamanda Adichie who stated in her TED Talk (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story | TED - YouTube) that the risk of the single story can lead to the development of assumptions, conclusions, and decisions based on incomplete information, and will lead to misunderstanding. Ultimately it prevents people from seeking out the true story which is always a more “complex, nuanced view of a situation.” There is a distinction between education and propaganda, and the characterization of Israel's formation as the "Nakba" (i.e., catastrophe) is not education, but anti-Israel propaganda. The war of Independencer resulted from the attack on Israel by 5 Arab armies and their defeat, which is the true meaning of the word, “nakba.”
It's unconscionable that Toronto's teachers will be presented with a skewed view of history that demonizes the State of Israel.
2. None of the presenters appears to have any expertise on the history of the 1948-1949 conflict. One of the presenters, Derik Chica, has a degree in science from the University of Toronto, and no OCT additional qualifications in history. The other presenter, Maysam Ghani, is not an OCT member and has no apparent qualifications in history. Moreover, Maysam Ghani has a history of producing art exhibitions that condone violence against Israelis. ("Revolution Must Mean Life": Maysam Ghani's Poetry, Art Installation in Toronto | Institute for Palestine Studies (palestine-studies.org)
3. One of the presenters, Derik Chica, has an extensive history of hostility to Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and the state of residency of 45% of the worldwide Jewish population, repeatedly describing it as an "apartheid state". (There has never been apartheid in Israel, and repeating it and quoting other biased sources, does not make it true.)
While Mr. Chica has the right to his opinions as a private citizen, his opinions do have a bearing on his objectivity and fitness to present at an OSSTF event which TDSB teachers are paid to attend.
At the moment, no harm has been actually committed, but many in the Jewish community are justifiably upset and view this proposed event as leading to harm, mobilizing anti-Israel sentiment and Jew hatred. This proposed even should not have gotten this far.
We hope you will reconsider whether this PD session ought to proceed given the likelihood of its unbalanced perspective causing harm to our Jewish community.
I look forward to your reply.
Andria Spindel, Executive Director