Jewish rights group sues McMaster over allegations of anti-Semitism

By

Published January 4, 2024 at 6:09 pm

A Jewish civil rights group, The Lawfare Project, has announced a lawsuit against McMaster University alleging the university permitted an anti-semitic environment.

Lawfare and their lawyers Diamond and Diamond, announced the $77 million class action suit on Jan 4. The suit represents all Jewish students at McMaster, including those who graduated within the last two years.

The group claims “Jewish students at McMaster University have suffered psychological turmoil due to faculty praising the October 7th attacks in Israel and exposure to antisemitic rhetoric at rallies on campus.” The group further alleges a recent candlelight vigil had to be moved to a secret location due to “safety concerns.”

“Behavior that encourages hatred, violence, discrimination or interferes with the educational atmosphere, as stated in the ‘Code of Students Rights and Responsibilities,’ reflects a breach in the University’s responsibility,” charged managing partner of Diamond and Diamond Sandra Zisckind, “Section 319 of the Criminal Code categorizes the public incitement of hatred, the deliberate promotion of hatred, and the intentional promotion of antisemitism as criminal offences.”

The latest Isreal-Hamas War was sparked on Oct. 7 when Hamas, a designated terrorist group which controls the Gaza Strip, launched a surprise attack. The militants flooded over the border and attack military bases and the surrounding civilian neighbourhoods. They also opened fire at a concert and took numerous hostages back to Gaza. Nearly 1,400 Israelis have been killed, mostly in the Oct. 7 attack.

The Israeli government responded with an all-out siege on Gaza; first with a bombing campaign then by sending in ground forces. They also severed most all supply lines into the city of 2 million people (half children) restricting access to food, water medicine and electricity. The siege remains in place as of Jan. 4. Nearly 22,500 Palestinians have been killed.

The war has had massive ripple effects worldwide, sparking protests and controversies everywhere. In Canada, this has resulted in a substantial spike in hate crimes against both Jewish and Muslim populations. For example, on Dec 19, Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw said there were 338 reported hate crimes in 2023, a 45 per cent increase from the 224 incidents reported in 2022.

Of these, 147 were reported as anti-Semitic hate crimes and 37 were reported as Islamophobic hate crimes. Nearly 100 of these incidents came after Oct. 7. Inthehammer has requested similar data from Hamilton Police, but they have not provided it.

McMaster itself has been caught up in this trend. Back in November cardiologist Dr. Eva Lonn was placed under professional review after calling for the deportation of pro-Palestinian protestors. She has since apologized. Conversely, PhD candidate Ghada Sasa has provoked controversy for her pro-Palestinian views, seen as anti-semitic by some, prompting a petition to see her reprimanded.

Additionally, the student union has long supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The lawsuit claims these incidents and others have fostered an antisemitic environment at the university.

“This lawsuit seeks to establish and enforce effective, and enduring measures to guarantee a safe, supportive and tolerant educational setting for all students, irrespective of their race, religion, or ethnicity,” said  Founder and Executive Director of The Lawfare Project Brooke Goldstein. A press release announcing the suit said the partners are considering suing other universities as well.

McMaster itself said, “Fostering an environment that is safe and inclusive for all members of the McMaster community has always been and continues to be a critical priority for the university, which condemns all forms of hatred.” A spokesman noted the university was aware of the lawsuit’s announcement but it had not yet been formally served the claim.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of a legal action outside the court process, McMaster is steadfast in its commitment to providing a safe and welcoming environment where our community members feel a sense of belonging,” McMaster concluded.

 

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising