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Toronto School Board apology to staff at odds with district Superintendent who thanked Cole for saying “supporting Palestinians is love”

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The Toronto District School Board was scrambling after “anti-racist” activist Desmond Cole lectured staff for interrupting his antisemitic tirade: “If this is what I have to put with, I can only imagine what you do.” Online his fans bragged how “Free Palestine” means ‘Killing All The Jews In Israel’ after all. (Photo: IJV)

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The Toronto District School Board is still scrambling after a generation-woke hero lectured staff for interrupting his antisemitic tirade in what was supposed to be a Zoom talk with educators about combatting anti-Black racism.

Among the details described by the Never Again Podcast (and confirmed by the Toronto Sun), “Desmond Cole, a Canadian activist, was invited to speak in four learning sessions for some 600 senior TDSB educators and other staff members. Although he was supposed to be speaking about anti-Black racism, Cole went off-script to claim the TDSB was silencing Palestinian voices.”

Cole also interjected himself into other topics including a TDSB personnel issue and defended Javier Davila – a recently re-instated Student Equity Program Advisor disciplined after distributing antisemitic, anti-Israel material to TDSB staff. Cole claimed the content Davila distributed was not antisemitic. Cole also accused Israel of “settler colonialism” and stated, “If people interpret ‘Free Palestine’ as being violent, it is because they are benefitting from Palestinians being unfree.” Cole repeatedly said the words “Free Palestine.”  

The TDSB put out a statement that stumbled around how not to describe the behavior of Cole, an author of some repute who changed his Twitter handle to negro frolics says Free Palestine and had taunted the Board and specific staff members, only to have it backfire badly at the hands of his ‘anti-racist’ followers. 

A TDSB official reported to parents:

“I understand the keynote speaker introduced the number of unanticipated topics that were not discussed prior to the presentation and which surprised many in attendance. The feedback that I received included references the speaker made to “Free Palestine“, mention of specific personnel issues and the opinion the national anthem Oh Canada should not be played in schools …”

Next came the modern-day word salad to obscure what went on, but as Jonathan Kay suggested, “Turns out Cole’s presentation was so bonkers that the organizers had to distance themselves from it.”

This is important because whatever happened, the Director of the board WAS APOLOGIZING to staff for it:

“as educators and leaders within the Toronto District School Board, we must have the ability to listen to the perspectives and critiques of guest speakers and others, and demonstrate the collective capacity to critically examine and reflect on and/or challenge the ideas that they put forward. It is incumbent upon us to interrupt and question when content is potentially problematic or inappropriate and we must continue to empower staff to do so. It is clear we should have done a better job providing space for staff to unpack these complex conversations and I want to apologize for any harm they may have caused.”

So, this wasn’t just a matter of Desmond Cole advocating for some pro-Palestinian position (which will be described below), it’s how he did it.

He did it by insulting two staff members who did what the board commands: “challenge the ideas that they put forward. It is incumbent upon us to interrupt and question when content is potentially problematic or inappropriate.”

Cole, who some describe as a journalist, didn’t like it, and said so.

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Cole, a smarmy egoist whose ability to conduct a rational argument was seemingly stunted around the time he turned 15, interrupted executive superintendent Shirley Chan and superintendent Lorraine Linton – (both women of colour, based on the kind of scorecard Cole usually abides by and promotes), later accusing them on Twitter of being puppets of the regime.

Cole: “and the reason this is happening is I have said these things in previous presentations and now people are uncomfortable and trying to disrupt me.”

Chan:  “some people have said “Free Palestine” is the destruction of Israel.”

Linton then interrupted to suggest clarifying what he (Cole) means by “Free Palestine”, which he avoided until he got to his Twitter account as you’ll read. Cole replied by drawing a goofy analogy to “Black Lives Matter” not being universally agreed upon, ‘so I guess you guys discipline children in your school for saying that too… we can play this game all day …”

Cole then proclaimed, “if people interpret Free Palestine as being violent it is because they are benefitting from Palestinians being un-free. Period. In the same way if you answer “Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter,’ you must have some investment in Black lives being more undervalued than they are today.”

Fresh from celebrating the election of a grand total of 3 “Vote Palestine” pledge signers to Parliament, CJPME hopped on the Desmond-Cole-is-a-victim train, repeating his ill-advised trope that it is racist to say “Free Palestine’ has violent connotations. A quick research project by an official from Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre proved that Cole was either incredibly ignorant of the truth of his words, or tried to gaslight the educators who challenged him. (Screencap; Twitter)

It was hard to fathom the twists of such confounding logic, but his destination was made immediately clear: He is in solidarity with the Palestinian employees against the racist TDSB.

“Shout out to all the Palestinian people who are here today, and who are within the TDSB, if this is what I have to put up with, I can only imagine what you do”.

No wonder the Board had to apologize to the staff.

When the brouhaha began to blossom online, Cole redoubled his attack on the two administrators claiming “they and other staff were directed to interrupt me by their superiors.”

“I doubt Shirley Chan and Lorraine Linton disrupted my talk simply out of personal discomfort… staff interrupted two of my presentations with what sounded like scripted talking points.”

In thanking a supportive tweet from a Muslim organization, he said: the TDSB staff in this exchange repeatedly disrupted an equity talk the board hired me to give—they were uncomfortable with me saying “free Palestine”.  

He got further support from another anti-racist activist, that “Your correction of their misinterpretation was spot on. I feel it’s intellectually lazy when people say they hear “free Palestine” and think of the destruction of Israel.

Thus encouraged, Cole took it one step further.

Dripping with ignorance and arrogance, Desmond Cole laughingly dared TDSB executive superintendent Shirley Chan to prove “some people have said free Palestine means the destruction of Israel”. Dozens of his acolytes proved she was telling the truth, in an epic self-own by Cole. (Screencap: Desmond Cole Twitter)

That was followed by a challenge to Chan, mocking her concern he was chirping an antisemitic slogan:

“some people have said free Palestine means the destruction of Israel” who said that lol please cite your sources Shirley”.

Enter Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the Policy Director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center. She took the time to tally the replies to Cole from his vast online fan base, to find plenty of sources who confirmed it.

“In an epic self-own, Toronto activist Desmond Cole is incensed by the suggestion that the slogan ‘Free Palestine’ is meant as a call for the destruction of Israel. He demands proof that anyone ever said so… Here’s how his own followers responded… a thread

She then posted screengrabs organized in 4 pane style, every one proving Chan was not being “intellectually lazy” thinking Free Palestine meant the destruction of Israel. Over 60 such sources clamored for Cole’s attention, in fact.

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the Policy Director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, compiled dozens of supportive replies to Desmond Cole from avowed genocidal anti-Semites. (Screencap: Twitter)

“me. i said that. death to Israel” tweeted @norabandora in reply to Cole.

@stymstem, who describes themself as “system | 23 | Jewish, disabled, crazy | antizionist |”, wrote to Cole: “i mean, it should be in the destruction of Israel. because it was founded on ethnic cleansing, massacres, oppression and slow genocide, and still commits most of that, wants to continue, and most*citizens* didn’t even want to cease-fire when bombing Gaza. it shouldn’t exist”

“wait what?” tweeted @MaramiyaMama, “what else would it mean? death to all genocidal settler colonial states. that should still not be controversial.”

“anyone that thinks there can be peace with Israel and a two state solution pls d!e” (please die) @mikhmy told him.

 “Cole used his platform to spread misinformation about Israel, completely erase the Jewish perspective on recent contentious issues, and deny the Jewish experience of anti-Semitism,” Kirzner-Roberts wrote in a statement. She astutely noted, “There has been an alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the TDSB and its schools, and the remarks by Cole feed into the normalization of anti-Semitism in the education system.”

And thus, the problem for Jewish parents with kids in the TDSB.

Despite his bullying of two fellow administrators concerned that the term “Free Palestine” was a dog-whistle for Jew-haters, TDSB Superintendent of Education Alison Gaymes San Vicente effusively thanked Desmond Cole “for the counter narrative with @LC1_TDSB & providing the cognitive dissonance - needed for progress.” The ultra-progressive educator also thanked him for the reminder “supporting Palestinians is love”. (Screengrab: Twitter)

On the one hand, his remarks required a formal apology by the Director.

On the other hand, in a school division where “there has been an alarming rise in anti-Semitic incidents”, Cole was lauded for his presentations by a school superintendent who somehow didn’t notice that maybe maybe Cole had stepped over a few lines.

That’s because having the Palestinian narrative feed into “the normalization of antisemitism in the education system” is a blind spot, to be charitable, of the world view of $145,000 a year bureaucrats. Gaymes San Vicente has not gotten any attention for her role in this fiasco.  

 “My tweets are my own”, declares Alison Gaymes San Vincente on her Twitter account with 2600 followers, although it sure is hard to explain how this one wasn’t work-related.

“Thx @DesmondCole for the counter narrative with @LC1_TDSB & providing the cognitive dissonance – needed for progress. Thx 4 reminders that Black self-determination matters, supporting Palestinians is love & the system/individual must be truly anti-oppressive – not performative.”

The Toronto District School Board offered an apology for Desmond Cole’s outburst and claimed it will enlist both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) “to help develop classroom materials to address antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiments. (Photo: Twitter)

A fast-rising star in the pantheon of activist far-left principals and teachers in Toronto, in 2016 a Toronto.com story reported “Gaymes San Vicente views education through an equity and justice focus.” By 2020, she was the “Centrally Assigned Principal for Principal Coaching, Equity & School Improvement” with the division.

So enabling high-profile woke propagandists like Cole that pollute TDSB staff seminars with accusations of racism and oppressing Palestinians seems right up her alley.

Not coincidentally, we received an email from an outraged parent:

Message: When is the anti-Semitism at the TDSB going to end. The new Director of Education is an anti-Semite who believes that only Black Lives Matter. This has to stop. She should be fired! Why was Desmond Cole invited to speak?

I tried to call her to ask if she thinks “supporting Palestinians is love”, what is supporting Israelis? But the number I had found, had been disconnected. I have emailed the Board with a few questions and await a reply. That’s not the only inquiry we have launched.

The apology statement ended with an assurance that the TDSB will rely both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) “to help develop classroom materials to address antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian and anti-Israel sentiments.” 

I have sent questions to CIJA as that partnership with NCCM seems problematic, for reasons to be discussed next week in TheJ.ca. 

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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