OSSTF's Toronto district approves debate request by 2 teachers
Last Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2007 | 10:51 AM ET
A decision approving a request by two Toronto high school teachers to have a union debate on whether to condemn Israel's treatment of Palestinians has come under fire by human rights groups.
The motion, set to be debated later Thursday, was brought by English teacher and Jewish activist Jason Kunin, who has often criticized the Israeli government, and Hyssam Hulays, a computer science teacher.
It was approved by the Toronto district of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, and is being opposed by B'nai Brith and the Jewish Defence League.
"The level of discourse has been just incredibly low and vile," district union president Doug Jolliffe told the Canadian Press about approving the debate. "But to turn and say we cannot have any kind of discussions on this…. It's not Holocaust denial, where there is no argument to be made."
It speaks of "Israel's continued violation of the human rights of Palestinians," and asks the union to create classroom materials on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to support an international boycott of Israel.
B'nai Brith has launched an e-mail campaign calling on teachers and others to contact the union local and urge it to drop the motion. The Jewish Defence League says it will picket the meeting.
B'nai Brith members worry anti-Israeli sentiment could turn anti-Semitic and find its way into the classrooms.
They say the motion ignores human-rights abuses in other countries and there's no condemnation of Palestinian violence.
B'nai Brith executive director Frank Dimant told CBC News the resolution is about "bringing hate into the classroom.
"This is not an opportunity to discuss. This is bringing propaganda into the classroom. And I think propaganda has no place in Canadian classrooms."
The motion also calls on the union to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to criticize Israel's "aggression" against Gaza and Lebanon, and end sanctions against the Palestinians' Hamas government.
Neither Kunin nor Hulays returned calls to their schools on Wednesday.