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Toronto Schools Air Video Accusing Israel of Withholding Water from Palestinians

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Ontario’s minister of education has called on one of the province’s school boards to explain its continued use of a video that provincial officials have said was biased against Israel, months after the minister directed school boards to remove the video from their curricula.

In July, the York Region District School Board, which oversees schools near Toronto, issued an apology over the video after a parent in the area complained about its inclusion in a tenth-grade civics course.

In a statement at the time, the school board said the video presented a “biased point of view on the Israel/Palestinian conflict.”

Ontario’s education minister, Stephen Lecce, called the video offensive and said he had ordered schools to remove it from their curricula.

Last week, however, a pro-Israel advocacy organization, Hasbara Fellowships Canada, reported that a parent in the Ottawa area alerted them that the school board was still showing the video as part of the same course.

A spokesman for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, Darcy Knoll, confirmed that the video was shown during a class last week, but said the school board was still trying to determine why the content remained on the syllabus.

“During the summer, we became aware of this vlog and the concerns about this content,” Knoll said. “The content was removed and we are now trying to determine how that content resurfaced. We have also sent a notification to all principals on this matter to ensure this situation does not happen again.”

In response to the incident, the school board invited the superintendent of instruction to lead a discussion with students about the video and its connection to broader human rights issues, Knoll said.

“Although dialogue surrounding Israel and Palestine have a place in civics and global education, one-sided learning and antisemitic theories do not have a space in any OCDSB classroom,” he noted.

In a statement given to The Algemeiner this week, Lecce said it was unacceptable that the video was still being shown to students in the province after his office provided instructions to each school board this past summer to remove it from the course.

“A memo was also sent to all school boards, asking them to confirm they had implemented the changes,” Lecce said. “The board will need to answer for why this video is still being used, given the explicit direction to delete it.”

The three-minute video shows a boy talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including controversial claims about Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

“They have deprived the Palestinians of natural resources, such as water, and taking the majority of it for themselves,” the boy says of Israelis. “The Zionists that are granted these privileges are backed by the military.”

The video was produced by e-Learning Ontario and was one of four videos included in the resources for all Ontario school boards’ “e-Learning Civics and Careers” course, according to the York Region District School Board.

Jewish advocacy groups in Ontario have disputed the accuracy of the information in the video, calling it “propaganda” and saying it advanced antisemitic tropes.

Last week’s incident has prompted Jewish groups to seek more information on how the video resurfaced. Re-Law LLP, a Toronto-based law firm, has partnered with the New York-based Lawfare Project, a nonprofit that advocates for pro-Israel communities, to file requests for documents with various government agencies in Ontario, according to Re-Law partner David Elmaleh.

The groups are seeking documents and records related to the video’s re-appearance, and plan to take further action depending on the institutions’ responses, Elmaleh said.

Watch the video in question below: