(JTA) — Ontario’s education minister ordered a video that a Jewish group said is biased against Israel be removed from an online course.
Stephen Lecce tweeted that he is “very concerned that this offensive material was on a learning website” and that “I immediately ordered it to be taken down (it was that day) & investigated to ensure it never happens again. We will not tolerate anti-Semitism in any form.”
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said Monday that it contacted Lecce about the video, part of the curriculum of a Grade 10 online civics course, after an upset parent contacted the group.
The Friends group quoted the video as saying: “The current occupation of the Palestinian land by the Zionists have [sic] violated the human rights of the Palestinians. They have deprived the Palestinians of natural resources, such as water, and taking [sic] the majority of it for themselves. The Zionists that are granted these privileges are backed by the military. … This conflict continues to rage on because the Israelis continue to live as occupiers while the Palestinians live under occupation.”
Louise Sirisko, director of education for the York Region District School Board, said in a statement that the Ministry of Education’s E-Learning Ontario initiative created and distributed the video as part of a revised e-Learning curriculum, and that it was part of a selection of four videos that are available to all school boards in Ontario.
“The video has been reviewed and removed from the resources available to school boards. We are disappointed that some of our students were hurt by this video and please know that the views expressed are not indicative of the beliefs of the YRDSB school community,” the statement said.
Rabbi Meyer May, executive director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, thanked Sirisko and Lecce “for publicly sending a message that such misinformation and bias will not be accepted, whether it’s inside a classroom or on an e-learning platform, and for ensuring the quick removal of the video.”
“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex, which this video fails to recognize. Instead, it shares a one-sided view of the conflict as well as promotes a harmful negative view of Israel’s Jewish people. Schools are meant for educating youth, not building prejudice.”
The group said it wants the Ministry of Education to explain how such a video ended up in the curriculum and what steps will be taken to prevent the distribution of such a video to Ontario school boards in the future.