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TDSB silent about Desmond Cole-supporting Superintendent as 2 other educators face complaints to regulator

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If anyone objects to the use of slogans or resource material that glorifies the destruction of the State of Israel within the Toronto District School Board, anti-Zionists immediately blame “broader structures of racism and colonialism” for oppressing activists and educators. (Photo: CJPME)

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As I discussed in my previous column, author Desmond Cole thought he had an easy dunk shot tweeting that “Free Palestine” was a non-violent mantra after senior administrators of the Toronto District School Board challenged him during his four lecture ‘anti-racist’ program in September. Cole stated, “If people interpret ‘Free Palestine’ as being violent, it is because they are benefitting from Palestinians being unfree.”

At $4000 a pop, Cole used the instructional sessions with principals, vice principals and staff of TDSB in September to deliver broadside salvos at “settler colonialism”, “theft of land”, Israel and Zionists, and characterized those who don’t share his views as “taking the side of the oppressor.” His online grandstand play came after news got out that education director Colleen Russell-Rawlins had apologized to staff for his antics.

An alert Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, the Policy Director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center compiled dozens of replies to the tweet by pro-Palestinian social justice gladiators, reminding Cole that he was wrong – making the Holy Land void of Jews was part and parcel of the “Free Palestine” liberation theology.

It was also a reminder to the school trustees who paid his $16,000 tab, yet none of the trustees have dared speak out on any of this disgraceful waste of taxpayers’ dollars on the promotion of genocide against Israelis and Jews.  

Provocateurs as victims

Clear lines of sight are now opened for Jewish parents in Toronto to have a look-see at other various anti-Zionist and hyper-woke educators who have not been silent in their support of Cole’s cause.

Any challenge to the antisemitic statements of a woke “anti-racist activist” gets put through the lens that every dissenting opinion is either rooted in racism, or is a reflection of a power imbalance.

That is exactly how Cole framed the environment at 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”. One such example, he claimed, was Javier Davila – a recently reinstated Student Equity Program Advisor. Davila and Cole now have a symbiotic relationship, each one proclaiming the victimhood of the other. The current shorthand is activists like them  are “being targeted with hate after standing up for the Palestinian people.”

Davila had been put on leave, then reinstated, after distributing manuals and links that progressives like Independent Jewish Voices call “anti-racist, anti-colonial materials to teachers”. The ‘anti-oppression’ resources included recommended books that, according to a story by Sue Ann Levy,  portray Israelis as criminals and gave advice on teaching kids how to advance the BDS movement.

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Terrorists as heroes

Davila included long lists of pro-Palestinian websites, most notably links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (“PFLP”), including an autobiography and movie about unrepentant highjacker Leila Khaled.

Perhaps unbeknownst to TDSB trustees when they reinstated Davila – although it’s hard to fathom how they’d miss it – the PFLP is a designated terrorist organization as per Public Safety Canada

He also included a 2-page flyer by the “New England Committee to Defend Palestine” that said: “It is a conflict between the indigenous Palestinian people and the Europeans who came with guns to steal their land and resources.”

After erasing all Mizrachi Jews from the history of Israel, the screed continued:

 “Palestinian resistance is the only barrier stopping the Zionists from completely fulfilling their mission to annihilate the Palestinian people as a whole… Palestinians have been legitimately resisting racism, colonization, and genocide since the 1920’s to the present day by any means necessary: … armed struggle, and martyrdom operations (called “suicide bombing” by Zionists).”

There is a Toronto connection to the “… armed struggle, and martyrdom operations” that people following Davila’s pointers might discover. And it’s one of the reasons Canada declares the PFLP a banned terror organization.

That connection has the community grassroots and Jewish parents of school kids in Toronto beyond outraged at trustees for reinstating Davila. 

Toronto educator Javier Davila was “honoured to be included in this list” by a group at University of Toronto of aggrieved “authors, doctors and lawyers who were targeted and vilified by the weaponization of antisemitism for supporting Palestinian human rights”. Among the groups Davila directed fellow employees to read up on was the PFLP, a terror group that has murdered Jews praying in synagogues. (Screencap: Twitter)

Jewish families in Toronto did not forget Howie

In the description of the PFLP on the currently listed terrorist entities of Public Safety Canada, our government says: “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.”

On the day of November 18, cousins Odai and Ghasan Abu Jamal murdered 5 Jews in their attack on the Tuesday morning minyan service at Har Nof Synagogue in west Jerusalem. They used axes, knives and guns to butcher Orthodox Jews at prayer in their tallits. Four of them were Rabbis, one was a policeman. Seven were injured. 

One of them, by far the most critically wounded survivor, was Rabbi Chaim Rothman.

Rabbi Ephraim Stein was there and had known Rothman for many years. “He was very cheerful, very outgoing, full of life and he was always enthusiastic about everything he did. He would actually sprint to synagogue in the morning, pray and then go to work, while in the evening he would come and study Torah.”

Rothman was cleavered in his neck, head and arm, lost his right eye and part of his ear, and after 3 emergency surgeries was put into a medical coma. Eleven months later, in October 2015, he passed away at age 55 without regaining consciousness, leaving a wife and 10 children to mourn the senseless tragedy. He became the sixth victim of the attackers.

According to Al Jazeera, “The two men belong to the Palestinian group known as the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).” The Washington Post headline described them as “Marxist-Leninist militants” and said the PFLP described it as a “heroic operation”. 

PFLP Terrorists charged with butcher knives and gunfire at Rabbi Chaim Rothman and 30 worshippers at a Jerusalem synagogue in November 2014, killing 6 including the Canadian-born grandfather of 3. (Image: UJA Federation of Greater Toronto)

In Toronto, Rabbi Rothman was known as Howie, where he lived from birth until making Aliyah in 1984.

Jewish families in Toronto did not forget him. They saw that Davila directed people on his mailing list to weblinks of the bloodthirsty PFLP – who murdered Howard Rothman at Shacharit prayers as part of their “armed struggle”. The grassroots of the Jewish community watched as Davila was reinstated without consequence by the trustees they elect.

However, Davila is not yet out of hot water. He will soon have a chance to plead that any complaints are actually “weaponization of antisemitism for supporting Palestinian human rights.”

A Jewish parent filed a formal complaint (now being carried forward by B’nai Brith) that is being investigated by the Ontario College of Teachers, alleging Davila as a member of OCT engaged in unprofessional conduct by using TDSB mailing lists – public resources – to draw people in using material the board has said, it would not have approved had they known.

“We will not allow Canada’s largest school board to turn a blind eye to antisemitism,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “The TDSB owes the Canadian Jewish community an explanation, as well as a commitment to never allowing this to happen again.”

This week TheJ.ca learned Davila isn’t the only progressive educator being investigated by the OCT.

Emboldened by Desmond Cole’s tirades against the Toronto District School Board, others went to social media to defend him and to proclaim the division is a bastion of “white supremacy”. (Image: Twitter)

It’s a Jewish conspiracy against Davila?

Another TDSB employee tweeted in support of Cole, and helped reveal there’s plenty of other “equity educators” that Jewish parents may want to keep an eye on. That employee tweeted about how “the anxious silence from many TDSB staff re: Desmond Cole’s talk speaks volumes.” They alleged, “This is the result of a culture of fear, and white supremacy.”

But what caught my eye- and that of others who have children in TDSB schools – was a person who had retweeted the allegation. That person had also retweeted Davila’s allegation he was “targeted and vilified by the weaponization of antisemitism.”

Who, I wondered, was Debbie L. Kasman, the person signal-boosting those attacks on the TDSB? Well, according to her website she “has worked as a principal, acting executive superintendent, and student achievement officer at the Ministry of Education in Ontario… Debbie has lots to say about re-imagining our education system.” But that’s not all.

 “Javier Dávila was reinstated to his position without penalty on July 16, 2021, three weeks after I published this letter and sent a copy to Karen Falconer and all Toronto District School Board Superintendents and Trustees.” she wrote on her blog

And what did her letter, which she insinuates forced the board (“three weeks after”) to back off of punishing Davila, say to the OCT about the matter?

That Davila was being persecuted by the Jews, of course.

In reviewing her own complaint against SIX education officials and complaining about the investigation process to registrar Dr. Derek Haime, Kasman also referred to how “Javier Dávila continues to be on home assignment under a Jewish Acting Director of Education who may have a bias against Palestinians.” It wasn’t her first antisemitic potshot at Falconer. In a June 4, 2021 post on her blog Kasman speculated that, “Falconer likely caved from pressure from one or several Jewish trustees and perhaps because she self-identifies as Jewish.”

In other words, the Jewish trustees “likely” influenced the Jewish director of education and their concerns about Davila’s activities were because they are Jewish. Not because Davila did anything wrong or unprofessional. It’s a Jewish conspiracy. That’s what Madame ‘Analyst and Researcher’ concluded.

TheJ.ca has learned that Kasman, like Davila, is biding time till an OCT investigator comes a-calling. A formal complaint was lodged asserting that Kasman, by publicly claiming that TDSB administrators and trustees acted with a racial bias towards Davila, was herself committing a breach of professional ethics.

The investigations may not end with Davila and Kasman.

In commenting on a report in TheJ.ca about Desmond Cole’s antisemitic performance as a guest speaker on “anti-racism” for the TDSB, Conservative Member of Parliament Melissa Lantsman tweeted it was no accident: “it’s built-in with the purpose of breathing life into accusations of racism and oppression to normalize it among teachers.” (Screencap: Twitter)

Cone of silence surrounds superintendent

As my column last week gained attention online from the likes of esteemed journalist Barb Kay (who knows an antisemite when she sees one), the newly-elected MP for Thornhill reiterated a point the column made, but in much better words: “The anti Semitic woke propaganda isn’t an unintended consequence of a rogue presenter,” explained Melissa Lantsman. “The licence to do this comes from the very top of the house.”

“From the very top”

B’nai Brith Canada also noticed what I reported, about the TDSB apologizing to staff members and asked why “a Superintendent of Education then publicly endorsed Cole’s message, raising further questions about the school board’s commitment to cohesively combating antisemitism.”

Pretty close to the top?

The facts are: Desmond Cole aggressively repeated antisemitic far-left rallying points, and was rude to senior staff challenging him. Cole voiced unabashed support for Davila who he portrayed as a victim of oppression and anti-Palestinianism. Davilla distributed material that was created by banned terrorists who butchered a Rabbi, a son of Toronto, AS HE PRAYED.  

Alison Gaymes San Vicente thought it was all just fine. Here’s her tweet again:

Even though a senior TDSB official apologized to staff for Desmond Cole’s rude antisemitism, the Superintendent of Education thanked him “for the counter-narrative.” The board has not responded to questions about the contradiction. (Screencap: Twitter)

I have yet to receive an answer from TDSB to questions I sent on Sept. 29 about the Cole affair and the statement of  Supt. Gaymes San Vicente, who wholeheartedly supported his rude and antisemitic antics. An email from TheJ.ca to their media inquiry box last week went unanswered. I followed up with a detailed phone message for the Director this week. No answer. 

Here is what I sent to the board: 

Our platform is Canada’s national online Jewish newspaper.I am contacting you in regards to a story about the recent incident with guest speaker Desmond Cole and his endorsement of “Free Palestine” to your staff. Can you please advise of the following:

  • Was the Superintendent of Education Alison Gaymes San Vicente involved in the initial invitation of Cole to appear, or in the details of arranging the lectures?
  • She tweeted her support for his content and behavior, yet your Director has been forced to apologize in particular to staff, for it.

Has TDSB addressed this seeming contradiction, that your superintendent thought Cole’s performance was fine while the official position is his presentation was objectionable and rude?

  • Will she be asked to amend or withdraw her tweet?

I think those were reasonable questions. As B’Nai Brith pointed out, the behavior of the Superintendent of Education is ”raising further questions about the school board’s commitment to cohesively combating antisemitism.”

Davila endorsed the PFLP as a “resource”, Cole endorsed Davila, Gaymes San Vicente endorsed Cole. And according to some people, like Kasman and those she amplifies online, the TDSB were harassing Davila and Cole because of “white supremacy” and “Jews”. 

So far the Ontario College of Teachers is investigating Davila and Kasman. Time will tell if it becomes a trio- or more. 

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

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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