It appears that bad press – not complaints from Jewish organizations – has prodded McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., to investigate anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks made online by members of a Palestinian campus organization.
Jewish advocacy groups say they complained to McMaster months ago about a spate of tweets that attacked Israel and expressed support for committing genocide against the Jews.
But the issue was thrust to the fore following the release this month of a study by an anonymous U.S.-based watchdog, and subsequent media coverage.
In a December update, Canary Mission – an independent database created to document groups and individuals who promote hatred against Jews, Israel and the United States, especially on university campuses – posted a scathing report on McMaster, which found, among other things, students praising Adolf Hitler and supporting the mass murder of Jews.
Posting screenshots and detailed profiles of the posters, the report cited 39 former and current students who were, or are, involved with the group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) at McMaster. In nearly 300 tweets, they demonized Israel and made openly anti-Semitic, anti-American, pro-terrorist and pro-Hitler remarks, including:
- “Death to Israel and all Zionists”;
- “How long does it take a zionist woman to take out the trash? Nine months”;
- “I honestly wish I was born at the time of the second world war just to see the genius, Hitler, at work”;
- “ ‘Where is hitler when u need one?’ I literally ask this every day”;
- “The whole world is controlled by Zionist Jews and until you understand that, life will never make sense”;
- “Death to America and white people”; and
- “Hitler should have took you all.”
Some of the tweets date back to 2011.
The study accused SPHR president Lina Assi of being an “ardent supporter” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and an admirer of Hamas and Hezbollah.
Quite clearly, these social media comments do not reflect McMaster’s campus-wide commitment to inclusivity.
The open admiration for Hitler espoused by several activists affiliated with SPHR was “the most shocking” aspect of the report, according to Canary Mission.
On Dec. 12, the Algemeiner, a U.S.-based online news website, published a story on the report.
In a statement the next day, McMaster said it is “actively reviewing some disturbing social media posts after being made aware of them this week through a published Internet news report.”
It added: “Quite clearly, these social media comments do not reflect McMaster’s campus-wide commitment to inclusivity, civility and respect.”
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) said it was “pleased to learn that the university is taking the concerns very seriously.”
The university declined to investigate.
The FSWC filed a complaint against Assi with McMaster and with Hamilton police in June.
“We had received a letter from the university, following our complaint in June, which failed to state that they would investigate, and no action was taken,” FSWC spokesperson Avital Borisovsky told The CJN.
Assi’s social media statements will not be prosecuted as a hate crime, The CJN was informed on Dec. 13. They “did not rise to the threshold required for a criminal charge,” Det. Paul Corrigan of the Hamilton Police Service’s Hate Crime/Extremism Unit said.
B’nai Brith Canada said it also filed complaints with McMaster about some of the individuals named in the report as early as June, “but the university declined to investigate.”
University spokesperson Michelle Donovan did not respond to follow-up queries about why McMaster acted now and not after the complaints from Jewish groups.
In an email to The CJN, Judith Dworkin, director of Hillel at McMaster, said it was “shameful and disgusting to see SPHR activists at McMaster post such hate on social media.”
Dworkin said Hillel has “raised serious concerns” with McMaster and campus security, and that discussions are “ongoing.”
In a Facebook post, SPHR at McMaster distanced itself from the controversy, saying anti-Semitism “has no room in the Palestinian liberation movement.… Vile comments made to support the genocide of Jewish people are intolerable in every sense of the word.”
It said the tweets were “inexcusable,” and two of the students who wrote them were never part of the organization, while two of the group’s executives have “long shed anti-Semitic sentiment.”
Other executives “have received education on the differences between Judaism and Zionism, which Zionist hasbarah (public relations efforts) has done so well at conflating.”
To equate all Jews with Zionism “is anti-Semitic in itself,” SPHR said.
It denounced the Algeimener as a “right-wing media news outlet that seeks to demonize Palestinian activism on North American campuses,” and called Canary Mission “a McCarthyist database.”