The Toronto Sun
Nov 2, 2023
The principal at London Islamic School – in Southwestern Ontario – says a teacher reading a student’s poem on TikTok that states “Israel should be banned” has been spoken to.
However, the word had with her was not about what many would consider anti-Semitic themes in the video but on her choice to put it on social media.
“We did speak to her about posting anything within the school,” Principal Samah Al-Sabbagh said Thursday. “She is aware of that and she has not posted anything (else).”
Of course, for many in the public, including in the Jewish community, the concern was less about how the video was shared and more about what was said in it.
In the post, teacher Sarah Elnaffar praised the 13-year-old student for her poem that she read to the class.
“From the river to the sea, Palestine should be free; from our hearts and above, Palestine should be loved; from the sky to space, there should be no struggle Palestinians should face; from the oceans to below, Palestine should be known; from the soil to the sand, Israel should be banned; from the grass to the trees, Palestine should be seen.”
The teacher and the whole class applauded.
“Wow, that was a really good poem,” Elnaffar then tells her class
Perhaps at that school and in that classroom – but for Jewish people around the world, such a poem is effectively dancing on the graves of 1,400 people who were slaughtered in Israel at the hands of Hamas on Oct. 7.
Any reference to “from the river to the sea” is generally seen as a genocidal rant. But this poem goes even further by stating “Israel should be banned” – reminiscent of a dark part of human history in which the Nazi’s enacted such a policy that produced the Holocaust that saw the extinction of six-million Jews.
Apparently this school is not familiar with the “never again” phrase often used to highlight the lessons of the Holocaust.
“It is disturbing to learn that there are teachers in Ontario indoctrinating children by praising their use of slogans popularized by the terror group Hamas,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said. “It is our understanding that calling for the erasure of the Jewish state is not currently part of Ontario’s curriculum.”
But, in pointing it this was not done during instruction time, Al-Sabbagh said there will be no discipline for the teacher or the student and explained the school always teaches their kids how to be “fair and right.”
“I think in the poem it just says Israel should be banned, but it doesn’t say from what?” the principal said. “It’s something a student wrote. It’s not something that she (the teacher) has come up with herself.”
“She has no control over the kids, but she does tell the kids we have to be understanding and we have to be fair and so on and so forth,” Al-Sabbagh added.
So, “from the river to the sea,” or “soil to the sand, Israel should be banned,” don’t fall into a category of understanding?
“It depends,” said Al-Sabbagh. “She is saying it within the poem and if she’s said they should be banned from doing what they are doing, then it’s something that is completely up to her to say, right?”
Going on the concept of having free speech, Al-Sabbagh added, “It is something she has a right to say – if she thinks they are doing something bad and should be banned from doing something bad. She didn’t say anything specific about Israel (or) anything happening to it. She was saying about banning what’s happening. That’s up the student, right?”
Of course, the true test of that would be to see how tolerant the principal, teacher and student would be if a Jewish student wrote such a poem.
However, students should be taught at all times that there is no one group of people that should ever be banned and that everyone is equal.
That said, the poem, the teacher’s praise of it, and the principal’s explanation offer insight into what students are learning at London Islamic School.
While the school’s website says it follows the Ontario curriculum, Mostyn is correct when he points out there are no anti-Israel sentiments in the province’s curriculum.