The Peel District School Board is investigating a sign at one of its schools, which suggested that Israel is conducting human testing on Palestinian prisoners.
It also apologized for not removing the sign sooner.
The banner appeared at Stephen Lewis Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont. Words flanked by the Palestinian flag asked, “If animal testing is NOT OKAY… Then why is human testing OKAY?”
The sign included the hashtag, “#ProtectPalestinianPrisoners.”
The poster was removed on April 12 pending “a full investigation” led by the school’s superintendent of education, said the board’s director of education, Peter Joshua, in a statement to The CJN on April 15. The investigation “began immediately and is ongoing,” Joshua said.
“We recognize that the poster should have been taken down when concerns were first raised, while we looked into it,” he added. “For this, we apologize.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) posted a picture of the sign to its Facebook page on April 12. CIJA called it “one of the most serious and vicious examples of anti-Semitism in a Canadian public school” that it had seen.
The sign was part of a class project for a course called “equity and social justice: from theory to practice,” which is taught in Grade 12.
In a statement, CIJA charged that students at the school “have launched a campaign promoting the anti-Semitic lie that Israelis harvest Palestinian organs and conduct human testing of pharmaceuticals on Palestinians. We have credible evidence that this is taking place in the school and on social media, allegedly as part of a class project.”
A tweet allegedly posted by a teacher at the school added fuel to the fire. The author of the tweet, which has since been removed, wrote that, “The most recent injustice against #Palestinians – Pharmaceutical testing on prisoners. Grade 12 Equity & Social Justice class raising awareness about this human rights violation for the month of April.”
CIJA said it has offered to conduct anti-Semitism training for the school and the board, similar to programs it runs for the Toronto District School Board and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
Avi Benlolo, the president and CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said it is “shocking to think that spreading such false and hateful ideas could be permissible inside a school.”
He called on the school and the board to “take immediate action by looking into this campaign and ensuring the students who are behind it are educated and held accountable.”
The board recognizes “the severity of the hurt and harm that the class project has caused for members of the Jewish community and others inside and outside of Peel Region,” Joshua said. The “concerns of anti-Semitism are heard and we commit to a full review of the project, guided by the board’s safe schools and equity and inclusive education policies.”
“Are we prepared to work with local Jewish faith leaders and other community leaders to address the concerns and restore a sense of safety and respect for all?” Joshua asked rhetorically. “Absolutely.”
The “comprehensive investigation,” Joshua said, “is focused on repairing hurt and harm, and to restoring positive climates for learning and working for all.”
At the same time, the board will be “sensitive to the well-being and safety of those who participated in the class project.”
However, because of privacy laws, the board will not be able to share the outcome of the investigation with individuals who are not directly involved, he pointed out.
In a Facebook post, Conservative MP Peter Kent noted that the “toxic anti-Semitic propaganda of Israel Apartheid Week on some Canadian university campuses seems to have infected at least one GTA public school.”
Earlier this year, Hebrew University in Jerusalem distanced itself from one of its professors, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, who told conferences in the United States and Europe that Israeli authorities have permitted large pharmaceutical firms to experiment on Palestinian prisoners and have been testing weapons on Palestinian children.
The university said the statements were her “personal opinion that reflect only her views.”