Demands grow for McMaster to ban Israel Apartheid Week

McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont.

Israel detractors at McMaster University are looking for public donations to finance their annual Israel Apartheid Week (IAW).

As the GoFundMe campaign by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights nears its $600 goal, however, Israel supporters are petitioning McMaster’s new president to ban the event.

In a letter, to both McMaster president David Farrar and Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger, Jewish Defence League Canada spokesman Meir Weinstein asked them to intervene to stop the event that he labels “anti-Semitic.”

Weinstein said he was especially troubled that promotional material for the March event features a prominent photo of convicted Palestinian terrorist Leila Khaled holding an assault rifle and featuring the slogan “Don’t forget the struggle.” The image has also appeared in a mural on the Israeli West Bank security wall near Bethlehem.

The IAW event, he added, is just another part of a “history of anti-Semitism at McMaster” by the SPHR group that has included leaders praising Adolf Hitler, demonizing Jews and glorifying terrorist organizations.

In an emailed statement, a spokesman for the campus group Hillel Ontario said the group “strongly objects” to Israel Apartheid Week.

“McMaster Hillel and Hillel Ontario strongly object to the presence of IAW events on campus and the week’s ridiculous premise,” Ilan Orzy, the group’s director of advocacy and issues management wrote. “IAW is an entirely fringe series of poorly-attended events that the vast majority of students ignore.”

In an email, a Canary Mission spokesman accused the McMaster administration of putting Jewish student at risk by not taking a firm stand against Israel Apartheid Week events.

“We are not shocked at the latest behaviour of SPHR activists, the group’s raison d’etre is anti-Semitism and terror support,” the group said. “We are, however, disappointed in the McMaster administration for choosing to turn a blind eye to the inherent anti-Semitism of SPHR and their Israel Apartheid Week at the expense of the safety of Jewish students.

Allegations of anti-Semitism at McMaster are not new. In 2017 the pro-Israel group Canary Mission investigated the school and released a report identifying 39 people and 287 social media posts deemed demonizing of Jews, anti-Semitic, pro-Hitler and calling for violence against Jews

In an email statement, McMaster spokesman Wade Hemsworth said all events on campus are governed by the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

“The group organizing the event in question is a student group registered with the McMaster Students Union,” he wrote. “All such groups are governed by McMaster’s Student Code of Conduct, which promotes the safety and security of all students and encourages respect for others.

“The university also provides guidance to all event organizers, which clearly outlines the university’s commitment to free expression and lays out what behavior is deemed unacceptable.”

Khaled was involved in two airline hijackings in 1969 and 1970. In the second an Israeli steward was shot by her male accomplice who was, in turn, killed by Israeli sky marshals. The steward recovered. Khalid was captured and held in a British prison until released in exchange for passengers taken in another hijacking.

As of Wednesday, SPHR’s crowd funding drive had raised $450 from 11 donors. One donation was for $100 while others were for $50 or less.