York Region District School Board Refuses to Adopt the IHRA Defintion of Antisemitism

York Region District School Board Refuses to Adopt the IHRA Defintion of Antisemitism

3 min. read | By Daniel Tarade

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) quietly adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defintion of antisemitism in 2018. Since then, the state of Israel bombed Gaza multiple times, destroyed hundred of Palestinian settlements, and murdered both children and journalists.

MSA Saying Zionism is Racism
MSA Saying Zionism is Racism | © Kiri Vadivelu

But the mass struggle to smash Israeli settler-colonialism and to win the liberation of Palestinians grew manyfold.

Major human rights organizations released landmark reports labeling Israel as an apartheid state. International pressure to lift the siege of Gaza, to tear down the apartheid wall, and for the right of Palestinians to return home continues to mount. So when the question of adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism came to the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) in 2022, popular support for the Palestinian struggle forced elected school board trustees to question the dominant narrative of Israel — they voted not to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism.

What is the IHRA definition of antisemitism? It’s one of multiple attempts to construct a working definition of antisemitism. The opposition to this particular definition comes from the attempt to conflate Jewish people with the state of Israel. While the IHRA tried to claim that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” they contradict themselves by providing the following guiding example:

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

What this core element of the IHRA definition attempts to do is erase the history of the formation of Israel. By focusing on the self-determination of Jewish people vis-a-vis Israel, the Palestinians indigenous to those lands are erased. Palestinians were displaced to make space for Jewish settlers even before the Nakba, but the 1948 “tragedy,” where 700,000 ethnic Palestinians were forced to flee their lands, represents just one important historic example of the settler-colonial foundation of Israel.

Leading up to the vote at the YRDSB, community organizations put pressure on trustees. Independent Jewish Voices urged that “fighting antisemitism is a must, but the IHRA definition is the wrong approach.” YRDSB Kids Deserve Better, an advocacy group, demanded that trustees “just say no” to the IHRA definition and instead explore alternative definitions of antisemitism that do not silence Palestinian voices and narratives.

This community push worked! One trustee described receiving feedback from over 500 people with two-thirds opposing the IHRA definition. 11 YRDSB trustees voted for postponing indefinitely a vote on the IHRA definition with only 2 trustees opposing such postponement. This is just another sign of the growing struggle against settler-colonialism.

The Municipal Socialist Alliance (MSA) should point out that we do levy similar criticisms to other settler-colonial nations, including Canada. Indeed, the foundational “Basis of Unity” for the MSA ends with a call to “dismantle the systems of capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, hetero-normative patriarchy, and white supremacy.” A common slogan chanted at Palestine rallies in Toronto is “from Turtle Island to Palestine, occupation is a crime.” As internationalists, we recognize that solidarity knows no boundaries. The forcible removal of people from their land, whether the Indigenous peoples in so-called Canada or the Palestinians in so-called Israel, constitutes a crime against humanity.

We must resist in all possible arenas the erasure of Palestinian voices. In our schools, we must fight against attempts to normalize anti-Palestinian racism and Canada’s support for Israeli settler-colonialism. And with each passing day, the tide appears to be turning.

Free Palestine!

For more information, please contact
Municipal Socialist Alliance
Call: 647-986-1917
[email protected]


City of Toronto Annual Financial Report 2021


Protest at Toronto Star over Municipal Campaign Blackout of Socialist Candidates