CJPME: Halifax School Board Must Apologize for Incident of Anti-Palestinian Racism

Montreal, March 3, 2023 Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is calling on the Park West School and the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) to immediately issue an apology for their racist ban on the Palestinian traditional scarf, or Kufiyah. During a cultural event at Park West School, students celebrating their Palestinian heritage by donning the Kufiyah were told by their school principal to remove the scarf, claiming it “represents the colours of war.”

“This is an unacceptable incident of anti-Palestinian racism” asserted Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME. “A school which boasts about its multi-cultural attendance should be ashamed for such cultural illiteracy,” continued Woodley. In 2022, the Arab-Canadian Lawyers Association published a landmark report defining anti-Palestinian racism as “a form of anti-Arab racism that silences, excludes, erases, stereotypes, defames or dehumanizes Palestinians or their narratives.” Among the examples they cite include, “defaming Palestinians and their allies with slander such as being a terrorist threat/sympathizer or opposed to democratic values.” Park West School’s decision to accuse teenagers of wearing “war colours” simply because they wore a Kufiyah is a textbook example of such anti-Palestinian racism.

The Palestinian community in Halifax has also spoken out strongly against the actions of the Park West School. In an email to school administrators, the Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society’s (ACPS) Board of Directors pointed out that “such actions create an unsafe environment for students and can have a profound impact, especially on those of Palestinian origin who have already experienced the effects of Israeli occupation and aggression.”

For Palestinians, the Kufiyah is a centuries-old garment which farmers wore to protect themselves from the sun while working the land. Today, it is worn as a symbol of Palestinian identity, freedom and dignity in the face of ethnic cleansing, occupation and apartheid by the Israeli state. In fact, major human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, have recent issues reports detailing how Israel is practicing the crime of Apartheid against Palestinians. As such, CJPME calls on Park West School and the HRCE to issue an immediate apology, provide education around the Kufiyah and anti-Palestinian racism to their staff and introduce anti-Palestinian racism into their Equity, Diversity and Inclusion frameworks.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact: Michael Bueckert, VP CJPME: 613-315-7947 or [email protected].

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East www.cjpme.org

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