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‘Hug a terrorist’ event brings debate on Middle East conflict to McMaster University

A controversial pro-Palestinian campaign was held at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. Thursday aimed at raising awareness of the civilian deaths in Gaza.
A controversial pro-Palestinian campaign was held at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. Thursday aimed at raising awareness of the civilian deaths in Gaza. (SPHR/Twitter)

TORONTO – A controversial pro-Palestinian campaign was held at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. Thursday aimed at raising awareness of the civilian deaths in Gaza.

The event, called “Hug a Terrorist”, was created by McMaster’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) group and is based on a viral video of the same named filmed in Toronto over the summer.

“This event was to bring awareness to the treatment of Palestinian children and how they have been portrayed by the Israeli government and media as ‘terrorists,'” wrote SPHR in a Facebook post. “The word has been carelessly used to justify the murder of over 531 children this past summer as well as the deaths of each child (1 every 3 days) in Gaza and Palestine since the year 2000.”

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The latest conflict between Palestine and Israel has left more than 500 children dead and has injured more than 3,300 – most of them Palestinian- according to numbers from Amnesty International.

READ MORE: Residents in Hamilton, Ont., confront ‘anti-Muslim bigot’ in viral video

The group also noted that other student groups had engaged in forms of “cyber-bullying” and “attempting to misinform” people about the event.

One student who took offense to the event said the ironic use of the term “terrorist” was being insensitive given the recent attacks in Ottawa and Quebec that killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo who lived in Hamilton

Jacob Klugsberg, a fourth-year McMaster student, said he was “shocked” to learn of the on-campus event.

“This shameful publicity stunt trivializes the severity of international terrorism and undermines the corresponding suffering that it causes victims and their families,” Klugsberg wrote on Facebook. “My sympathy will always be with the victims of senseless acts of violence, not those who seek to divide and demoralize us by using violence.”

SPHR tweeted photos of the event featuring two young boys wearing Palestinian keffiyehs holding a red sign with the provocative message: “Hug a ‘terrorist’.”

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The name of the event was inspired by a video created by Greater Toronto Area filmmaker Omar Albach, who filmed a video of two young girls holding a sign with the same message in downtown Toronto.

Albach recently created a video of a so-called “social-experiment” spurred by the shooting rampage in Ottawa. It shows a group of Hamilton residents who stand up against an actor hurling anti-Muslim insults at another actor in traditional Islamic garb.