CJPME applauds TDSB for including anti-Palestinian racism in its anti-hate strategy

Montreal, June 20, 2024 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) applauds the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) for including anti-Palestinian racism (APR) as part of its Combating Hate and Racism Student Learning Strategy. A report adopted yesterday by the TDSB in a 15-7 vote includes APR as an area of focus “in response to student and community voices,” and follows advocacy from Toronto Palestinian and Jewish families. This means that a working group will be formed to educate students on APR, alongside other forms of discrimination including Islamophobia and antisemitism. CJPME urges the TDSB to implement this policy as soon as possible to address the dangerous and rising wave of APR.

“We are thrilled to see that the TDSB has taken an important first step in recognizing anti-Palestinian racism as a distinct form of discrimination, and committing to develop tools to address it in Toronto schools,” said Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME. “This is critically important in the context of the shocking pattern of violence and hate we have witnessed against Palestinian Canadians and their supporters, which has risen in parallel with the monumental violence of Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza,” added Woodley.

A working description of anti-Palestinian racism was first developed by the Arab-Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) in its 2022 report titled “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations.” The ACLA describes APR as “a form of anti-Arab racism that silences, excludes, erases, stereotypes, defames or dehumanizes Palestinians or their narratives,” and identifies various forms of APR, including “denying the Nakba and justifying violence against Palestinians,” “failing to acknowledge Palestinians as an Indigenous people with a collective identity,” and “defaming Palestinians and their allies with slander such as being inherently antisemitic, a terrorist threat/sympathizer or opposed to democratic values.”

CJPME believes there is an urgent need for initiatives to address APR due to the skyrocketing rise in incidents in Canada. Some recent examples of APR include: An arson attack on a London family in response to their lawn signs in support of Palestinian human rights; a mobile advertising truck in Toronto playing a video depicting Muslims and Palestinian flags while claiming that Canada is “under siege”; beheading threats received by the leader of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba; and a covert foreign influence campaign by the Israeli government spreading anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim messages. While the issue has gotten worse since October 7, 2023, APR is a problem that also long predates it; last year, CJPME issued a report on APR which exposed more than 500 examples in online written content in 2022.

Unfortunately, CJPME points out that APR typically goes unspoken by politicians, who fail to acknowledge it as a specific form of racism. The term “anti-Palestinian racism” was missing from Canada’s renewed Anti-Racism Strategy, even though the document had identified Palestinians as a group facing “unprecedented levels” of hate. Following the arson attack in London, the Prime Minister and other members of the government described the attack as an incident of Islamophobia, without identifying it as APR. Finally, during a recent Parliamentary study into Islamophobia, multiple experts noted that the committee had failed to distinguish between Islamophobia and APR, or to invite Palestinian witnesses. CJPME hopes that the federal government and other public bodies will follow the example of the TDSB and incorporate APR into their anti-racism strategies.