Monday, February 25

Fact Sheet Related to "Israeli Apartheid" Ban

Rally and Forum Friday Feb. 29, 10 am in Hamilton.
Buses from Toronto. Carpool from St. Catharines.

McMaster Solidarity for
Palestinian Human
Rights (SPHR)
& McMaster Muslims for Peace
& Justice (MMPJ) present:


Note: SPHR and MMPJ are two distinct and separate
organizations, both of which are McMaster Student
Union approved clubs. They have distinct histories,
mandates and members. These organizations separately
became involved in the issue of the usage of
"Israeli Apartheid" as a term at McMaster University.

SPHR and MMPJ are issuing this joint fact
sheet to clarify the events leading up to public
release of information claiming that the
McMaster University administration has not
banned the use of the term "Israel Apartheid"
despite both the offices of the Human Rights and
Equity Services (HRES) and the MSU President,
Ryan Moran, communicating that that decision
came from the office of the Provost.

Due to recent statements by the University Provost,
Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, various people have
contacted us requesting clarification on this issue.
We are happy to comply, and hope that our statement
of facts will shed light on the matter.
Most people, including SPHR and MMPJ, in writing
to the McMaster University have received a generic
email reply regarding this issue stating that the
university has not banned the use of
"Israeli Apartheid" but rather the issue relates to
the placement of an inflammatory banner.
For example, in a email sent by the Provost on
February 21, 2008 to SPHR, it was stated that,
Although there is a rumor circulating that
I have banned the use of the phrase
"Israeli Apartheid", this is patently not true.
McMaster University fully supports freedom of
speech and we have not abridged this
fundamental principle. The single action we
took was to refuse to place a highly inflammatory
and large banner in a very public part of our
campus. No restrictions were placed on any
activities associated with Israeli Apartheid Week.'
MMPJ and SPHR both categorically deny having
requested or been refused approval for a banner,
large, inflammatory or otherwise. We do not know
what the Provost is referring to in this statement.
However, the following series of events did take place:
Monday, February 4: MMPJ had a club table in
the Student Centre with literature and a display that
had the term "Israeli Apartheid" on them. A small
banner was attached to this table with the term
"Israeli Apartheid" on it. HRES Program Coordinator,
Vilma Rossi, visited the club table to inspect the
contents of the literature after students issuing
complaints to HRES office. She collected literature
for her review and agreed to contact a group
representative from MMPJ if she found any part
of its contents to be inappropriate or hateful. MMPJ
received no communication from HRES about the
content of the literature distributed at the table.
Later that day, MMPJ attempted to get the
required approval from the MSU Design & Copy Centre
for a poster with the term "Israeli Apartheid" on it to
advertise for an event later in the week. The manager
of the Copy Centre, Sandro Giordano, told the MMPJ
representative that the Head of the MSU Diversity
Services, Sara Cuneo, had anticipated MMPJ would
attempt to print a poster and had requested that she
be included in the review of the poster before it was
approved. Mr. Giordano contacted Ms. Cuneo upon
MMPJ's arrival and after reviewing the poster,
Ms. Cuneo suggested that the poster be forwarded to
HRES to judge the appropriateness of the term
'Israeli Apartheid'. The MMPJ representative present
was informed a decision would be made the next day.
Tuesday, February 5: McMaster SPHR attempted
to get approval from the Student Union Clubs
for a required Risk Assessment Form
for an upcoming event (on February 26) titled
"End Israeli Apartheid: Break the Siege on Gaza".
The Clubs Administrator informed SPHR that she
could not approve the form since this issue had been
'flagged'. She suggested SPHR should speak
to the MSU President.
Separately that day, MMPJ met with HRES Acting
Director, Tim Nolan who communicated that the
public employment of the term "Israeli Apartheid"
was inflammatory and unacceptable. No poster or
event could bear the title "Israeli Apartheid" and
we would have to revise the poster to exclude that
phrase. He attributed the decision to the office
of the Provost.
Wednesday, February 6: McMaster SPHR met
for over 5 hours with the MSU President and Human
Rights & Equity Services. Both offices made clear to
SPHR that 1) the use of the term "Israeli Apartheid"
in public promotions and literature would not be
approved and that 2) the decision was taken by the
McMaster Provost, Dr. Ilene Busch-Vishniac.
The MSU did allow the Risk Assessment for SPHR
to be approved, but continued to refuse poster approval
so long as HRES did not give their permission.
Specifically, they refused to approve the poster due
to the fact that it states 'Guest Speaker: Adam Hanieh,
Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid". In turn, HRES would
not approve the poster due to this phrase.
Such verbal communication was also collaborated
by written proof in that:
Human Rights & Equity email communication to SPHR
President on February 8, 2008 stated:
'I am sending
this email in response to your request to have,
in writing, the university's recent decision
concerning "Israeli Apartheid Week". The
university has taken the position that literature
which refers to "Israeli apartheid" and activities
promoted under the banner,
"Israeli Apartheid Week" are unacceptable.
The university takes the position that this
phrase is in violation of the university's efforts to
ensure that all people will be treated with
dignity and tolerance.'
Similarly, SPHR has the signed meeting minutes with
MSU President, Ryan Moran, where he states in the
February 6 meeting that: 'The controversy over
the use of Apartheid in describing the State of
Israel in McMaster Muslims for Peace poster had
gone to Human Rights & Equity which was then
forwarded to Provost for the final decision.
It was agreed upon that the use of language
(Apartheid) is not only inappropriate, but also
destructive in achieving overall positive results
amongst the parties involved. This rule by the
Provost was communicated to me through
Human Rights & Equity and the MSU has
decided to abide by this recommendation.'
Thursday, February 7: MMPJ held their event,
as part of Israeli Apartheid week, featuring the
screening of the movie, "The Iron Wall" and invited
Khaled Mouammar from the Canadian Arab Federation
to lead a discussion after the film. During the event,
MMPJ followed the guidelines of HRES and did not use
the phrase "Israeli Apartheid" throughout the event
and instructed Mr. Mouammar not to use the term at
any point during his talk or during the question and
answer period, to which he complied. In attendance at
this event were members of the Hamilton
Muslim-Jewish Dialogue committee, HRES representatives,
Detective Chris Kiriakopoulos who is head of the Hate Crimes
Unit of the Hamilton Police, as well as a Police Sergeant.
Friday, February 8: SPHR spoke to the McMaster
Provost Secretary Barb Agro explicitly requesting a written
notice of the decision taken by the Provost regarding this
issue. This request was repeated in written communication
through email on Friday, February 15, and in many
subsequent emails. The Provost has yet to comply with
this request except to deny the decision attributed to her
office by HRES and the MSU.
The administration's denial through the Provost,
Dr. Busch-Vishniac, is even more confusing given an
email she sent to Mr. Gerofsky, which is posted at This email states:

"Dear Mr. Gerofsky,
I learned of just this morning of the table
occupied by a student group, named Muslims
for Peace and Justice, who widely displayed
Israel Apartheid Week literature. We regret
this incident greatly and never condone
hate-mongering in any form. We have met with
a representative of he student group, explained
to them that their banner will not be permitted,
and told them in no uncertain terms that their
activities must show respect and tolerance for
everyone or we will take further actions.
I thank you for voicing your concern and
agree that this is an ugly incident. Hateful
behaviour has not place in our community."
Further, parts of this email were quoted by the
Jewish Tribune in an article available online at:
Wednesday, February 20: MMPJ met with the
McMaster Provost and Andrea Farquhar,
Director of Public & Government Relations after
MMPJ requested the meeting earlier in the day.
During the meeting, the Provost confirmed that in
fact she wrote the email cited above addressed to
Mr. Gerofsky, but described the email as simply a
personal communiqué outside her capacity as a university
official. She reiterated that she did not ban the use of the
term "Israeli Apartheid" and only intervened to prevent
a large banner in the Student Centre that prominently
displayed the term "Israeli Apartheid" by SPHR, though
there is no record of SPHR ever requesting such a banner.
This meeting was the first time that MMPJ had heard of
any such banner. The next day, the provost sent the
following email to MMPJ affirming her stance and
acknowledging the Gerofsky email on
Thursday February 21, 2008:
"As I reinforced at our meeting, McMaster
University fully supports freedom of speech.
This is a fundamental principle of the University
and it is the appropriate means of promoting
dialogue on difficult subjects. While there is
considerable confusion and misinformation
being circulated, we have not abridged freedom
of speech. The single action the University took
was to prevent the posting of a banner of a different
student group in a very public place on the
grounds that it would be unduly inflammatory.
We have not restricted any activities associated
with Israeli Apartheid Week; nor have we
banned the use of the phrase "Israeli Apartheid.

I appreciate that you came to me to clarify
these issues as there is considerable confusion
on this point owing to the public posting of an
email I sent that included personal views on
the issue. I assure you that my personal views
are irrelevant to this matter.
Both MMPJ and SPHR continue to be in contact
with these offices but with no real resolution. It is
the view of both organizations that this matter has
become highly speculative and inconclusive due to
the lack of both due processes followed by the related
bodies on this matter. Both organizations are
perplexed by the claims of the Provost that the decision
to censor the term "Israeli Apartheid" is the result of a
severe breakdown in communication and that both the
MSU and HRES, effectively, had lied to us. In turn, we
do not know what banner she is referring to. MMPJ and
SPHR call on all these bodies to participate in
the Public Forum this Friday, February 29 at 10:00am
being organized by the ad-hoc committee,
United for Student Rights so that everyone can be properly
informed to make a decision on this issue. Both groups will
be participating and making public statements at the forum.

Some Related Articles to This Post:

- Letter to Presdient George regarding
Censorship at McMaster University

- CAIA Statement on Campus
Repression at McMaster University


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