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Peel District School Board Apologizes, Removes Antisemitic Poster

Updated: Apr 22, 2019


The Peel District School Board (PDSB) in Mississauga, Ontario, has issued a sweeping apology to the Jewish Defence League and the broader community in the Toronto region after admitting a poster which claimed Israel is testing experimental drugs on Palestinian prisoners should have been removed immediately upon the start of their investigation.


Although complaints were registered as early as April 2nd, the poster (*details at the end of the story*) remained on the wall of the Stephen Lewis Secondary School until April 12th.

"Their project was unintentionally rooted in falsehoods, is antisemitic and has been stopped."

In an online statement Tuesday by the Director of Education, Peter Joshua, the board admitted, "The poster displayed in the school as part of the grade 12 Equity and Social Justice: From Theory to Practice course contained links to misinformation and constitutes a disturbing, modern-day, antisemitic blood libel trope ... Although the intent was to advocate for the protection of human rights, this project discriminated against members of the Jewish community by perpetuating antisemitism. This has no place in our schools or anywhere in Peel Region and beyond."

Joshua attempted to quell the growing outrage by "reaffirm(ing) our board's unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism in all of its forms. We acknowledge and take full responsibility for the profound, negative impact these materials have caused to many members of the community, including our students, their families, staff and the broader Jewish community ..."


However, the statement cited PDSB privacy protocols as a reason why important specifics cannot be disclosed, at the same claiming the incident was not motivated by anti-semitism.

"We have determined that it was not the teacher nor the students' intention to promote, what they now understand to be, false allegations. Their project was unintentionally rooted in falsehoods, is antisemitic and has been stopped. The campaign banner has been removed from the school and associated social media activity has been deleted. We have investigated its development and are determining measures that we can put in place to prevent a similar occurrence in future."


Meir Weinstein of JDL Canada continued to press the School Board for a meeting, as his organization still has serious concerns about the process and personalities that led to the Grade 12 project coming to fruition.

"The Jewish community and the public must be given information as to who authorized the antisemitic posters according to your policy and who are the teachers involved.  The Jewish Defence League has concerns about certain teacher's at Stephen Lewis Secondary School that we would like to discuss with you." 


TheJ.ca has discovered a specific school policy for posters that requires a Principal or Vice-Principal to review and initial any poster before it is displayed.


In a Facebook post discussing the controversy, a former SLSS student named Habib AL-Husseini, who claims to be a Harvard law student, said "I was also there when the poster was created, again it was a diverse group that voted on this issue", insisting "they are not anti-Semitic and mean no harm." However, in a separate Facebook post, he called the actions of the school board "Bunch of BS. let's pick and choose which people to stand up for and protect against violent governments."


The Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs (CIJA) issued a statement after a meeting with school board officials which concluded, "The Board will work with CIJA and the Jewish community to conduct staff training on #antisemitism, recognizing the need to address systemic challenges and a problematic climate in the school."


POSTER DETAILS

"If animal testing is NOT OKAY… Then why is human testing OKAY? #ProtectPalestinianPrisoners,” read the sign along with what appears to be a website QR code.


The only Twitter account to have used the hashtag is called Protect Palestinian Prisoners which also uses the tag “Palestine Lives Matter.” There were two tweets using the hashtag:


1) “People in Palestine are being tested not only for pharmaceutical reasons, but also for weapons as well. ‘This is a clear war against humanity and international rights groups must take Israel to the ICC over its crimes against prisoners,’ (Baraka, 2019) #ProtectPalestinianPrisoners),.”


2) “Currently, there are 5200 Palestinian people who are in an Israeli prison, and at least 2000 of whom were wrongly accused, leaving 3000 detained. (Statistics on Palestinians in the custody of the Israeli security forces, 2019) #ProtectPalestinianPrisoners


COMING NEXT: MORE ABOUT THE COURSE, AND THE TEACHER WHO STARTED IT.