Canadian elementary school teacher Nadia Shoufani has won a year-long struggle against efforts by Israel lobby groups to force her out of her job.
Shoufani, who teaches in Mississauga, west of Toronto, was the subject of complaints because of a July 2016 speech she gave at a rally in support of Palestinian rights.
“Earlier this year Ms. Shoufani’s case came before the Ontario College of Teachers and she was found not to be in breach of the professional conduct expected of a teacher,” Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association, said in a statement to The Electronic Intifada on Monday.
“She is in her classroom and has not been disciplined.”
“Despite this, we remain incredibly disappointed that her professional integrity was publicly called into question without due process having occurred,” Stuart added. “This case should never have gone before the College of Teachers, and Ms. Shoufani should not have been put through the ordeal of the past months.”
Stuart’s union represented Shoufani at the Ontario College of Teachers, a licensing body, and at the school board.
Stuart said Shoufani “is a dedicated and compassionate educator, and we are pleased that she can finally put this behind her.”
“Malicious smear campaign”
In a Facebook post last week, Shoufani thanked friends and supporters who helped her achieve “a victory for myself, for the Palestine solidarity movement, for freedom of expression.”
The Facebook post was not publicly visible, but was quoted by the Palestine solidarity group Samidoun.
Shoufani did not provide a comment for The Electronic Intifada.
Independent Jewish Voices, one of the groups that had supported Shoufani, congratulated her for prevailing against a “highly coordinated and malicious smear campaign against her [that] was designed to ruin her career.”
“Shoufani’s victory over the well-resourced organizations that tried to make an example of her sends a strong message to Canadian civil society that those of us who support the human rights of Palestinians will never succumb to the bullying tactics of Israel lobby groups,” the Jewish activist group added.
Suspended for speaking out
Shoufani was suspended in July 2016, when the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board began to investigate her over a speech supporting Palestinian rights that she gave at a rally in Toronto.
The rally marked al-Quds Day, normally the last Friday of Ramadan, which many people observe as a day of solidarity with Palestinians.
During her address, Shoufani defended the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation and colonization.
She quickly became the target of a campaign by anti-Palestinian activists seeking to have her dismissed for allegedly supporting “terrorism.”
Israel lobby groups B’nai Brith Canada, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center Canada were actively involved in the effort to silence Shoufani.
The lobby groups honed in on her comments about Ghassan Kanafani, the celebrated Palestinian writer who spoke about Palestine as a cause for all revolutionaries.
Kanafani, who was assassinated by an Israeli death squad in 1972, is a “martyr,” Shoufani said.
Kanafani was also a prominent member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Canada listed as a “terrorist” organization in 2003, more than 30 years after a car bomb planted by Israel’s Mossad spy agency blew him apart in Beirut, along with his teenage niece Lamis.
Right to free expression
“A teacher should never have to worry that their professional reputation will be attacked in an effort to prevent them from exercising their right to free expression,” Stuart, the president of Shoufani’s union, told The Electronic Intifada. “Ms. Shoufani was expressing herself as a private citizen.
Stuart added: “We have always maintained that teachers are entitled to our personal political views. We use our professional judgment to determine whether it is appropriate to voice these perspectives in the classroom. However, so long as we are acting within the law, there is no reason why we should be prohibited from participating in political activities outside of school.”
Shoufani’s victory is all the more significant, as it comes amid persistent efforts by Israel lobby groups and Canadian leaders, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to stigmatize and marginalize those who support Palestinian rights – especially the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.