McMaster tight-lipped on how it dealt with anti-Semitic tweets

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., has completed its investigation into a series of tweets from students associated with a campus Palestinian group that praised Adolf Hitler and supported genocide against Jews.

But the university won’t reveal what actions it has taken to stem further messages of hate, or what punishment it has applied to those responsible for the tweets.

“It is not our practice to provide details of any actions taken or sanctions applied with regard to individual students,” university spokesperson Gord Arbeau told The CJN via email.

He said an investigation was undertaken under the school’s Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. “That investigation is complete and the code has been applied to those individuals who are current McMaster students with regard to postings made during their tenure as students,” Arbeau stated. He said that the university has no jurisdiction over former students.

McMaster has also suggested that the student union review its policies on student clubs, he added.


The issue first came to light in December, when Canary Mission, a U.S.-based watchdog group, published a scathing report on the tweets. 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. Some of the tweets dated back to 2011.

They included: “Death to Israel and all Zionists”; “I honestly wish I was born at the time of the second world war just to see the genius, Hitler, at work”; and “Hitler should have took you all.”

The study accused the president of the SPHR of being an “ardent supporter” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and an admirer of Hamas and Hezbollah.

New York-based news website The Algemeiner published a story on the report on Dec. 12.

The code has been applied to those individuals who are current McMaster students.
– Gord Arbeau

The next day, McMaster announced it was “actively reviewing some disturbing social media posts after being made aware of them this week through a published Internet news report.”

While they welcomed the probe, B’nai Brith Canada and the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre said they had complained to the university about the tweets months before the posts were publicized in the media.

Judith Moses Dworkin, director of Hillel at McMaster University, said she was aware that the investigation was completed and that its results were not divulged, as per university policy.

She said that her group thanks McMaster for the probe “and looks forward to continuing our collaborative efforts to ensure campus is a safe and welcoming place for all.”

But Steven Scheffer, a member of Never Again Group (NAG), a Hamilton-based Jewish and Israel advocacy organization, called McMaster’s announcement “empty and meaningless.”

He said that without publicly divulging the students’ identities and what they posted, “There’s no accountability. Without public scrutiny, there’s no acceptance of responsibility by either the university or the students. Without public knowledge of the punishment, there’s no deterrent.”

It gets worse every year.
– Steven Scheffer

Scheffer said that not only has “nothing” been done in the past, even after he wrote letters to university officials complaining of anti-Semitism on campus, but “it gets worse every year.”

In a Facebook post in December, SPHR at McMaster distanced itself from the controversy, saying that anti-Semitism “has no room in the Palestinian liberation movement,” and condemning the tweets as “vile” and “inexcusable.”

It said that two of the group’s executives have “long shed anti-Semitic sentiment,” while others were educated “on the differences between Judaism and Zionism, which Zionist hasbarah (public relations) has done so well at conflating.”

Arbeau said McMaster is “exploring ways to advance programming to raise awareness and help address anti-Semitism” on campus.