LEVY: Toronto teachers debating union donation to controversial UN Palestinian agency
LEVY: Toronto teachers debating union donation to controversial UN Palestinian agency

At a private meeting Thursday afternoon, the executive of the Toronto high school teachers union will vote on whether to donate to the disgraced United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Although the proposed District 12 Toronto Teachers Bargaining Unit (TTBU) donation recommended is a relatively small $300, UNRWA has been unmasked for its repeated ties to Hamas and history of teaching anti-Israel hate in its globally-funded schools.

The bargaining unit is part of the OSSTF, the union representing public secondary school teachers.

Recently there was a report that one of the Israeli hostages was held in the attic of an UNRWA teacher for up to 50 days, when that hostage was released during a temporary ceasefire in the fighting.

According to the agenda of Thursday’s private meeting, the executive will also vote on whether to endorse an Ontario Federation of Labour  statement from  Oct. 22 calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel and Gaza.

Sources close to the union say Jewish teachers with District 12 are planning a Hanukkah celebration at the exact time of the meeting and the vote – a vote which they find distasteful.

The agenda states that the donation motion has been moved by Ben Salfer with Kipling Collegiate and Seth Bernstein of Ursula Franklin Academy.

Saifer signed an open letter from Jewish teachers in 2016 in support of virulently antisemitic teacher Nadia Shoufani. She was suspended from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board for her anti-Israel diatribe.

When subsequently reinstated a year later, she wrote an article in Arabic in al-Meshwar (a Holocaust-denying Arabic newspaper) that she’d triumphed after a “fierce Zionist campaign.”

Bernstein, who appears to be a long-time organizer, designed and teaches a Grade 12 course called economic justice.

The agenda shows that Saifer and Sarah Vance, a teacher at Riverdale Collegiate, have moved the call for an immediate ceasefire.

Vance, a former organizer with the radical Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), claimed in a 2021 article that she became more active with her teachers union once Premier Doug Ford was elected.

This is not the first time OSSTF and its affiliates have donated to UNRWA.

During the last conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2021, the OSSTF came under fire by Jewish union members and Jewish advocacy groups for giving $5,000 from members’ dues to UNRWA.

Educator Neil Orlowsky said at the time: “I am disheartened to know that my union has donated $5,000 of our union dues to UNRWA when our dues are earmarked for professional development, collective bargaining rights and to improve the educational environment for students and teachers in Ontario.”

Recently a human rights complaint was filed on behalf of Jewish CUPE workers claiming antisemitism against CUPE Ontario and its president Fred Hahn, who has repeatedly posted calls for resistance in Gaza on his X feed.

CUPE National has also passed a motion calling for an immediate ceasefire.

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