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Hostile atmosphere marked by anti-Israel propaganda, far-left vitriol

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Anti-Israel student protest and campaigns in Montreal’s McGill University frequently compare Israel to apartheid South Africa, using buzzwords such as colonialism, racism, and capitalism. (Photo: SPHR)

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Yet another Canadian university is the focus of a vicious anti-Israel campaign. Once again, the world’s only Jewish state is under attack for existing.

A fringe student group forced a vote onto the McGill student body through the governing Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). In a controversial referendum, the group, “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights,” pushed through a Yes vote on a document condemning the Jewish state and its supporters. Israel was accused of engaging in “settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”

The vote called for a boycott of all “entities” complicit in this activity. The referendum question asked, “Do you agree to the SSMU’s adoption of the Palestine Solidarity Policy?”

There were several action items attached to the ballot question. The SSMU is to make a public statement each semester reaffirming “Palestinian liberation from settler-colonial apartheid.” As well, boycott and divestment actions are to remain in force for a period of five years. Voting ended on March 21. The vote passed with 71.1% for Yes. A significant number of students abstained from casting a ballot.

An Objection to the legality of the referendum question was sent to SSMU’s Judicial Board in early March. The Board suspended the question, pending a legal review. However, anti-Israel students complained to the Board, calling them racist and undemocratic. Some referred to a conspiratorial “Blacklist” used against anti-Zionist activists, suggesting this list had been circulating for decades. Quickly, the Judicial Board reinstated the referendum question.

B’nai Brith Canada has condemned the vote and urged McGill to withdraw funding from SSMU. The human rights organization worries that the document’s language is so broad that SSMU could potentially boycott all Jewish clubs and associations on campus.

A campaign by pro-Israel advocates opposed the motion. One McGill student leading the No side, Jonah Fried, is a 21-year-old history student from New York. Fried is a former representative to SSMU and currently a Committee for Accurate Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) Fellow.

Fried said the referendum was conducted in a “hasty, inequitable, and unconscionable fashion.” He feels the SSMU Judicial Board created a double standard. After halting the referendum question pending legal consultations, the board almost immediately backed down based on aggressive pressure.

It was a bitter campaign. Activists reportedly vandalized university buildings. Anti-Israel propaganda was posted on building walls and on campus tables. The hostile atmosphere made many Jewish students feel increasingly uncomfortable. Fried himself was accused of “writing xenophobic articles by the State of Israel” on opposing the referendum question.

The vitriol during the campaign was eventually acknowledged by the SSMU Elections committee. In a letter shortly before the vote, Elections SSMU addressed conduct by students. The statement condemned attacks on individuals or groups based on religion or ethnicity.

There was much gloating by “Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights” following the vote. They doubled down on comparing democratic Israel to apartheid South Africa, using cliched far-left buzz words such as colonialism, racism, imperialism, militarism, and capitalism.

Fried is concerned for Jewish groups, as well as individual students at McGill. Potentially, social groups such as Hillel could get defunded. Fried mentioned that SSMU issues research and club awards. “What are the implications for students who wish to do work related to Israel or Zionism?” he said.

There is still a chance to overturn the motion. A Board of Directors and the Judicial Board overseeing SSMU still need to approve the results.

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There have been several administrative reactions since the vote. Deputy Provost at McGill, Fabrice Labeau, sent a letter to the university community. Labeau’s letter called the referendum disappointing, in that it further polarizes and divides the school community. It also suggests SSMU is contradicting the principles expressed in its own constitution. SSMU is advised to take prompt action to remedy the situation.

Through email, McGill Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier responded similarly to B’nai Brith. Fortier stated the student government was told to take remedial action to fix the situation. “The McGill administration will also take all necessary measures to ensure that our students continue to feel safe and free of harassment, including holding SSMU accountable to the principles and values of its own constitution.”

In its constitutional preamble, the SSMU states it shall endeavor to facilitate communication and interaction between all students from all McGill communities. It also promises not to discriminate based on religion, national or ethnic origin.

B’nai Brith was encouraged by the McGill administration’s position. CEO Michael Mostyn said “No university should stand for antisemitism or votes contrary to the rule of law, and funds should not be provided to student organizations that are guilty of this conduct.” Mostyn also said B’nai Brith will continue to monitor and engage in this issue.

Mark Shiffer is a freelance writer for a number of publications and to The Blogs of Times of Israel. One of his main interests is history and especially Jewish history.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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