Photos C/O McMaster Hillel

CW: mentions of violence, anti-Semitism

By: Daniella Mikanovsky

On Oct. 30, McMaster students, faculty and staff gathered on the field near Burke Science Building to mourn the deaths of the 11 people who lost their lives during the Oct. 27 Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting, committed by a man espousing Nazi rhetoric.

The McMaster community was joined by rabbis and Hamilton community members as they addressed the tragedy that unfolded the previous weekend.

The vigil, organized by McMaster Hillel, the Jewish community organization on campus, sought to honour the victims, reflect on the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism and encourage hope and a united community.

[spacer height="20px"]At the memorial service, Max Librach, the president of McMaster Hillel, spoke about the victims and the relationship between the tragedy and his own experiences.

“I myself was praying in a synagogue on that same day. I do not for a second forget that this could easily have happened right here, in my own community,” said Librach.

Fourth-year McMaster student Max Greenberg recited El Ma’aleh Rachamim, a prayer for the departed soul of the dead. Greenberg’s prayer was followed by a poem about the Pittsburgh shooting. After the poem was recited, a few Psalms and the Mourner's Kaddish, a prayer recited in memory of the victims, were said.

The mourners were joined by members of other faith groups who expressed their commitment to advocacy and combating anti-Semitism and discrimination against marginalized communities.

Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraëli of the Beth Jacob Synagogue in Hamilton praised the Jewish community’s sense of unity and solidarity.

“We must draw strength from our community, our peers, and the communities of friends and supporters we are fortunate to have, and forge on forward, actively fighting hate and bringing about a better tomorrow,” he said.

In the multi-faith vigil co-organized by Rabbi Hillel later that evening at Temple Anshe Sholom, several faith leaders joined mourners in addressing the importance of togetherness and solidarity.

Judith Moses Dworkin, the director of McMaster Hillel, encourages and appreciates the allyship during this difficult time.

“We know that we have many partners on campus who continue to show us their support. We urge our friends in other communities to join us in speaking out and countering anti-Semitic hatred whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head. Only together can we truly heal from events like these,” she said.

Anti-Semitism continues to manifest itself in Hamilton, both subtly and more overtly. According to the CBC, in 2017, Jewish people were the most targeted group in religious-based hate incidents in Hamilton.

In the recent Oct. 22 municipal election, Paul Fromm, a self-proclaimed white supremacist associated with the neo-Nazi movement, garnered 706 votes.

“We have experienced some anti-Semitism in Hamilton over the past few years, but nothing more than graffiti, threats, and publication of a hate newspaper,” said rabbi Hillel. “Nonetheless, after the attack we are all feeling afraid and vulnerable. When all is said and done, we are not that much different from Pittsburgh,” he said.

McMaster Hillel is hopeful that they can support the Jewish community in the wake of the tragedy and increase public awareness about anti-Semitism and hatred on campus and in the community.

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A response to the "Spotted at Mac: 'punch a Nazi'" article from the Sept. 21 issue.

By: Lilian Obeng

I remember when every single social science and humanities professor chose to dedicate a portion of their lecture time to discussing this infamous question last year. A video showing white nationalist Richard Spencer getting punched by an anti-fascist protestor had gone viral and captured the attention of western liberal media. Everyone had a hot take, everyone picked a side to this debate and everyone continued to miss the mark. The article published this week did just the same.

Let’s begin with the campus-specific premise on which this article was based. First, the Revolutionary Students’ Movement is not an MSU Club. Any affiliation to McMaster and the larger McMaster community is tangential at best. Second, this article is rife with logical inconsistencies. The author states that expressing “violence against those who identify as Neo-Nazi is a violent act in itself.” Contained within this statement is the failure to acknowledge the initial violence of being a Nazi. Let me make this very clear — Nazism and white supremacy are ideologies that advocate for genocide and hatred. To view the stances of the RSM without interacting with this historical fact is a failure to acknowledge the violence and oppression that have gone into marginalizing certain groups. Power dynamics are ever-present in our discussions, and the resistance of the oppressed in in no way equal to that of their oppressors.

“Is it okay to punch a Nazi?”

Additionally, this useless question gives rise to an even more irrelevant debate. For starters, this whole punching Nazis business is quite literally a joke. It can be argued that it is in poor taste, but the vast portion of internet memes follow this suit. No person interested in rational debate is actually suggesting that punching individual Nazis is a productive use of time or is conducive to social justice. To act as though this is the case to be fundamentally intellectually dishonest. The fact that people are attempting to derive some sort of knowledge from this joke is troubling. and use it that the basis on which to draw conclusions as to the validity of the use of violence as a means of resistance is particularly irritating.

This question does nothing but obfuscate the real, pressing conversations we should be having here on this campus and beyond.

Why do we as a society hesitate to condemn Nazism and white supremacy in the strongest possible terms? What do we define as violence, and why are certain acts by specific parties excluded from this definition?

What this debate displays is our poor collective analysis. We continue to distill matter of systemic oppression and violence down to the actions of isolated individuals. We continue to refuse to examine our dependency on oppressive and state-sanctioned regimes of power. In this case, it is white supremacy.

The tension between what exists materially and what is conceived within the confines of purely academic and theoretical thought — divorced from the social reality marginalized groups face and what our society perpetuates — is the root of the frustrating practice. It results in disjointed attempts — such as that article — to appeal to “both sides” when one side is morally incorrect. It legitimizes actively harmful beliefs, and displays the extent to which we have these conversations in vacuums. Bigotry will be challenged. Hate will be challenged. No amount of intellectual posturing changes these premises.

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When Neo-Nazi propaganda was found on campus and in the Westdale area last week advocating against the conservancy of ‘white’ culture and telling the McMaster community to “punch a Nazi”, I began to question what the group advocating for this message was about.

According to their website, The Revolutionary Student Movement is a group of “definitively anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-ableist, LGBTQ2S*-inclusive and proletarian feminist” students who fight fascism.

The students that share the views of the RSM also hold that they are an anti-capitalist movement who are guided by communist principals and in the name of Karl Marx, work to “organize proletarian students in the interest of the revolutionary working-class movement”.

Now that we have established what this group is all about, we can crack down on the posters we have seen on campus.

My first impression when I saw the word “Nazi” used in a seemingly violent, World War II propaganda-like poster was not a positive one. So, I inquired further.

The RSM holds a political view that they would like to express. In and of itself, this is not a crime.

But expressing that violence against those who identify as Neo-Nazi is a violent act in itself.

The RSM, through their unsanctioned posters, are directly advocating for violence and discrimination in their views, something they are seemingly working against in their movement.

The posters in question asked the reader to “punch a Nazi”, as in, “react in a violent manner towards someone with a different political and ideological system than yours”.

Does that sound familiar? Not to mention that the posters themselves were not stamped as authorized by the McMaster Students Union, which diminishes the authority of the approach of the RSM’s view on Neo-Nazism.

Putting up posters on campus is allowed, as long as the posters are approved by the MSU. The MSU Underground Media and Design is the only place on campus that can approve posters.

The RSM, through their unsanctioned posters, are directly advocating for violence and discrimination in their views, something they are seemingly working against in their movement. 

According to the MSU Underground Media and Design Poster Checklist, posters that have any messages or images on the poster involving violence, hate, harassment, a discriminatory opinion or could be offensive/controversial will most likely not be approved.

These posters could be reviewed as offensive to certain sensibilities, but since they did not have an MSU stamp of approval it is difficult to tell.

Seeing as the club did not adhere to MSU promotion and advertising policies, the RSM, like all the other clubs who adhere to MSU policies, should revise their methods of message promotion.

The views and beliefs of the RSM are political views that they  are entitled to have, regardless of whether or not people agree with them.

That is not the issue here. What I am concerned with is the means by which they shared their views on campus.

Had the posters been approved by the MSU and attempting to simply share a view as opposed to seemingly impose it on the McMaster community, their message could have had a lot more merit to it.

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