Letter to Trustees, Toronto District School Board, re Complaint against Trustee Alexandra Lulka

December 6, 2021


Dear Trustees:


The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation is an active member of the Working Group Against Jew Hatred and endorsed a statement issued to your attention this morning regarding the anonymous complaint brought against Trustee Alexandra Lulka. I attach the statement for confirmation. We recognize the importance of the Board and the dedication you each have in addressing your responsibilities and wish you well in your deliberations, but feel compelled to intervene today in regards to a current issue and a recurring theme of antisemitism.


We wish tocall your attention to the lack of objectivity and fairness in the report which in the final analysis concludes that Ms Lulka should be censured. We find the report flawed, part of the conclusion fallacious, and submit that the whole matter should never have led to an investigation. When is the Board going to devote significant time to dealing with antisemitism, educating all teachers to identify Jew hatred, and providing proper supports and information to the students of the TDSB such that Jew hatred,including the demonization, denigration and double standard applied to Israel, is eliminated?


The Board accepted the IHRA definition of antisemitism in 2018 and now you must implement it. The work is in the application and not just in adopting a resolution.


The examples of Javier Davila’s extraordinary mischaracterization of Israel, links to terrorist entities, and seeming endorsement of individual terrorists, based on his links, suggests you need open a truly independent investigation as to the matter that brought you to this moment. It is not Ms Lulka that acted in contravention of any Code of Conduct. We urge you look more deeply into the situation that is at the root of the problem and exonerate Ms Lulka of any fault. Perhaps also look at how the Board itself is operating, such that it could not easily distinguish what was said as fact and what has been spread via mailouts that can only be described as biased and bigoted in relation to Israel and the Jewish people.


We wish to draw your attention to another matter that should concern this Board which must take ethical considerations into how it operates.


The "Independent Investigator" on which the TDSB Integrity Commissioner relied in determining that Trustee Lulka breached Section 6.10a of the TDSB Code of Conduct consisted of Cenoabr Parker and Morgan Sim of Parker Sim LLP, a small downtown Toronto law firm. Morgan Sim has a very extensive history of involvement with the Valentina Azarova hiring affair at the University of Toronto, and a series of emails where she had clearly taken a partisan role in that series of events that was highly favorable to Ms. Azarova. The Azarova affair, though a substantially different fact pattern, raised substantially similar issues about antisemitism, including promoting anti-Israel agitation. These Twitter remarks raise very serious concerns about a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of Ms. Sim in accepting and carrying out an appointment as Independent Investigator in the case of the complaint against Alexandra Lulka.


Morgan Sim on Twitter: "And if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this rant and are like, “Morgan, what are you talking about?”, sorry that I failed to link to the article above 🤦🏻‍♀️ But here you go!: https://t.co/2GsVxRltJv" / Twitter


Was the Integrity Commissioner and this Board aware of legal counsel’s previously publicly expressed views in support of an individual whose public persona is anti-Israel and whose behavior also fits the IHRA definition of antisemitism?


Below are excerpts from a letter by Michael Teper, a very concerned parent of children who have graduated from the TDSB and who still has one student in a TDSB school. Mr. Teper advised CAEF that he has brought several complaints to the OCT. Perhaps knowing of complaints against Javier Davila and others should give rise to an urgent need for the Board to understand the degree of antisemitism that the Jewish community is experiencing within your jurisdication. We attach excerpts from Mr. Teper’s letter to reinforce our concern that there are facts you must consider in your dismissal of the complaint against Trustee Lulka. We share this with you because though all of Mr. Davila’s mailouts were not antisemitic, it is essential that you see the degree of antisemitism that is explicit in his material.


From Michael R. Teper:

Trustee Lulka’s Statement

“I will be demanding a full investigation into this alarming incident and working to ensure that none of these hateful materials ever see the inside of a TDSB classroom.


We must all do better to combat antisemitism, especially in these trying times.”


Let’s look at that statement again. Is there in that statement anything derogatory of Palestinians? No. The IC Report acknowledges that fact, on page 31: “The Respondent rightly states that there was no mention in her Twitter Statement of Palestinians or Muslims”. Yet the IC Report goes onto say that “However, in reliance on the Independent Investigator’s findings, the use of the term “suicide bombings” and “other forms of terrorism” evoke a narrative directed at Muslims and Palestinians, hence included in the definitions of Islamophobia.” This narrative wasn’t evoked by Trustee Lulka, it was evoked by Javier Davila himself. It wasn’t Trustee Lulka who chose to include materials in the Mailouts that justified suicide bombings, it was Javier Davila. IC Craig acknowledged on page 42 of the IC Report that “’some of’ the materials did justify suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism. The Respondent’s comments can be taken on their face, to mean that ‘materials that justify suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism’ are reprehensible”. How IC Craig can accept this as a true fact on page 42 of the IC Report yet on page 31 use it as evidence of discriminatory conduct is a mystery to me.


IC Craig’s statement that “equating pro-Palestinian materials with anti-Semitic sentiment may perpetuate seeing Palestinians and Muslims, as the two are often equated, as “separate and ‘other’” without “values in common with other cultures (one of the “closed views” of Islam that has been noted by the human rights bodies as characterising Islamophobia)” is eminently reasonable by itself as a general statement of principle. The trouble is that Javier Davila’s materials weren’t merely “pro-Palestinian”, they were also laced with anti-Semitic sentiment.


Here’s an example, taken from the 7th bullet point under the heading “Important Reads” in the “Continuously Updated Master List”: Malcolm X on Zionism:https://churchills-karma.com/2020/06/28/malcolm-x-on-zionism[1]zionist-logic/.


“The Zionist armies that now occupy Palestine claim their ancient Jewish prophets predicted that in the “last days of this world” their own God would raise them up a “messiah” who would lead them to their promised land, and they would set up their own “divine” government in this newly-gained land, this “divine” government would enable them to “rule all other nations with a rod of iron.”


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.”


The antisemitic content of this essay is obvious enough; no further comment is necessary.


If the intent of the Mailouts was to “center the voices of marginalized Palestinians (particularly those of Palestinian children) as well as Muslim more broadly, the inclusion of this essay, which claims that “Zionists” are impelled by their “Jewish God” to “deceive the African masses into submitting willingly to their “divine” authority and guidance” is incomprehensible.


Let’s take another example, taken from “A Short History on the Colonization of Palestine (Flyer):http://www.onepalestine.org/resources/flyers/MythHistory.pdf” the 4th bullet point under the heading “Important Reads” in the “Continuously Updated Master List:


“Palestinians have been legitimately resisting racism, colonization, and genocide since the 1920’s to the present day by any means necessary: general strikes, demonstrations, periods of non-cooperation, boycotts of Israeli products and services, refusal to obey military orders, refusal to vacate land confiscated for settlers, tax revolt, armed struggle, and martyrdom operations (called “suicide bombing” by Zionists).


There you have it: the condonation of suicide bombing, re-characterized as “martyrdom operations”. If the intent of the Mailouts was to “assist educators in understanding and discussing the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and human rights in a manner that provides thoughtful guidance on how one might critique the Israeli government and army without perpetuating anti-Semitism”, the inclusion of this item is, again, incomprehensible.


Therefore, the conclusion of the Independent Investigator (whose name and credentials are mysteriously not mentioned in the IC report) that the Twitter Statement fundamentally mischaracterized the Mailouts is patently unreasonable. Granted, not all of the materials were antisemitic, nor did they all condone violence and terrorism. In fact a significant majority of them did not. That doesn’t make the materials as a whole A-OK. Nor does it mean that calling out the parts that promote antisemitism and condone terrorism “fundamentally mischaracterize” the Mailouts. Contrary to the view of the Independent Investigator (whose full report is conveniently left out of the publicly released materials regarding this matter), any perpetuation of stereotypes or discriminatory effects that resulted from this whole sad mess cannot be reasonably ascribed to Trustee Lulka, they come from the Mailouts themselves. It is Mr. Davila, not Trustee Lulka, who chose to associate pro-Palestinian views with antisemitic screeds and the condonation of suicide bombing.


In addition, the IC’s comment on page 45 that “The Respondent could have carefully crafted a statement to call out the potentially harmful materials while appropriately characterizing other materials as important, pro-Palestinian discourse” is absurd. Trustee Lulka was under no obligation under Section 6.10 of the TDSB Code of Conduct to provide a careful objective assessment of the merits and deficiencies of the Mailouts in the course of a constituency communication. At any rate, an omission to undertake such an objective quasi-judicial evaluation is in no way evidence of discriminatory conduct. The IC’s subsequent comment on page 45 that “If the Respondent had stated only that she had learned that there were some troubling materials that may promote antisemitism contained within a larger mailout, and that she would be asking that the TDSB determine how these materials were permitted to be distributed, she would not have been found to be further anti-Muslim tropes and would likely not have violated the Code in respect of Issue #1”. With all due respect to the IC, that’s exactly what Trustee Lulka did. Yes, she also described the materials as “virulently anti-Israel”. Given the examples cited above, that’s hardly an unfair or misleading characterization. She also wrote that she was outraged to discover that some of the material justified suicide bombing. Well, it’s game-set-match on that point. She characterized these examples as reprehensible. Who wouldn’t? She then pointed out the irony that the Mailouts were coming from the very department in the TDSB charged with promoting equity, tolerance and harmony between Toronto’s various ethno-religious groups. If there’s any wrongful conduct there, it’s not Trustee Lulka’s.


In short, the IC’s accusations against Trustee Lulka are complete rubbish, and ought to be sent where they belong.”


CAEF has been combating antisemitism and bringing awareness to this noxious, poisonous hatred for almost 20 years. We hope the TDSB will be able to address and alleviate any sign of antisemitism in a very short time.


Respectfully,