Hamilton school board probes trustee’s social media posts on Palestine
Published November 15, 2023 at 11:21 am
The Hamilton public school board of trustees is investigating a member’s social media posts on Palestine for allegedly breaching its code of conduct, but trustee Sabreina Dahab says it’s an attempt to silence her.
She announced that the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board of Trustees launched an external investigation into her advocacy at the end of October.
In an open letter on the social media platform X, Dahab, trustee for Ward 2, wrote Tuesday (Nov. 15) that it was her duty and desire to promote a “learning space free from anti-Palestinian racism and Islamophobia.”
“I am concerned that this investigation is an attempt to silence me for my vocal condemnation of Israeli apartheid and reprimand me for my posts about protests that were calling for the end to the siege of Gaza,” Dahab wrote. “I reaffirm my position: I condemn Israeli apartheid and believe that for there to be peace, the siege of Gaza must be lifted and the occupation must end. I reject the conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.”
Dahab said she was advised by her legal counsel to refrain from making comments related to the code of conduct complaint during the investigation. “I will provide updates at the appropriate time,” she wrote in her post.
As for the investigation, Dawn Danko, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board chair and Ward 7 trustee, didn’t provide inthehammer.com with specific details about the case.
Due to reasons related to “confidentiality accountability,” she said she can’t share more details related to Dahab’s statement. .
Instead, Danko provided an emailed statement to inthehammer.com late Tuesday, writing that all board of trustees members are integral to creating “an inclusive, safe and welcoming community.”
“As ward elected officials, they represent the community for which they serve, work to promote a positive climate that is inclusive and accepting of all students, staff, and all others, including persons of all races, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability,” she wrote.
Employees face backlash over Israel-Hamas comments
Dahab is among employees who faced backlash and in some cases, professional repercussions, for publicly wading into the contentious issue of the Israel-Hamas war. Pro-Palestinian advocates, including outspoken MPP Sarah Jama, are calling for a ceasefire to end what they say is Israel’s “genocide” of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Jama threw her support behind Dahab on Tuesday, saying on social media that she stands in solidarity with her and “and every person who has faced repercussions for supporting Palestinian human rights!”
Advocates have also been condemning Israel for being an “apartheid” state, which was the conclusion reached by some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Israel denies it committed human rights violations against Palestinians. It says it’s defending itself by bombing the besieged Gaza Strip in efforts to destroy Hamas. The territory is controlled by Hamas, the group classified as a terrorist entity by Canada and responsible for the brutal Oct. 7 attacks that killed over 1,200 Israeli civilians and took over 200 of them as hostages. Israel is also accusing Hamas of using human shields by operating in civilian areas such as hospitals and neighbourhoods.
More than 11,000 Palestinians have died since Oct. 7 in what has been called the deadliest war between Israel and Hamas in decades. The United Nations has launched an investigation into the conflict, saying there is “clear evidence that war crimes may have been committed” by both sides since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks and Israel’s retaliatory military action.
The growing crisis in Gaza has compelled a group of seven independent United Nations experts to call for a “humanitarian ceasefire,” warning that “the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide.”
Dahab wants to challenge ‘harmful, oppressive, anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic narratives’
Dahab said it’s the role of elected officials in education to do “the difficult and necessary work of teaching and taking leadership in difficult times like these.”
She explained that it requires having tough conversations “that challenge harmful, oppressive, anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic narratives.”
She ended her open letter by encouraging students, who she said were facing repercussions across Ontario for saying “Free Palestine,” and everyone to speak up about Palestine.
She said students are being “silenced and threatened with disciplinary measures, amongst other serious incidents of anti-Palestinian racism.”
“I call on (Education Minister Stephen Lecce) to unequivocably condemn anti-Palestinian racism, and Islamophobia across Ontario’s education system and to take steps to ensure all students are safe in their schools.”
She signed off her letter with “Love, Solidarity and Free Palestine!”
Described on the school board’s website as the link between communities and the school board, trustees are elected “to serve parents, students, taxpayers and the school system.” The school board stated that they ensure Hamilton public schools “meet the diverse needs of students in their communities.”
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At the end of October, the @HWDSB board of Trustees launched an external investigation into my social media activity as it relates to my posts on Palestine, alleging that my advocacy is a breach of the Trustee Code of Conduct.
Please see my statement. pic.twitter.com/CJ6APaLtJ9
— Sabreina Dahab (@sabreina_dahab) November 14, 2023