Friday, February 17, 2017

The Discomfort of Being a Jewish Student at McGill

"Instead of dealing with this important and distasteful issue, supporters from the gallery for [Igor Sadikov] turned the meeting to attack me and request that I be removed as a representative of SSMU [Students' Society of McGill University] due to my faith."
"I was left isolated and alone to respond. My fellow representatives sat in silence and permitted this malicious, prejudicial, and unjustified attack to continue."
Jasmine Segal, social work students representative on SSMU council

"Since SSMU has a social justice mandate, why does it allow Zionist councillors on council when Zionist ideology is inherently [linked to] ethnically cleansing Palestinians?'
Pro-Palestinian activist tweet to The McGill Daily student newspaper

"This tweet and the discourse that followed on Thursday have unleashed a wave of condemnation of Zionists and Jews at McGill and have normalized inciting violence against students who identify as such."
"If anything, I feel more unsafe and more singled out now than I did last week because of the campus groups who have used Sadikov's tweet as an opportunity to express their anti-Zionist, and often anti-Semitic views."
Molly Harris, third-year Arts student

"If the abilities of any councillor were questioned on the basis of their personal identity [SSMU executive condemns that violence]."
"The SSMU recognizes that this is an emotional and contentious issue revolving around differing interpretations of historical and cultural contexts."
Students' Society of McGill University board of directors
McGill BDS students demonstrate on campus MCGILL DAILY PHOTO
McGill BDS students demonstrate on campus MCGILL DAILY PHOTO
There was a time, decades ago, when McGill University committed to a policy where the number of Jews admitted to study was strictly limited. That time long past, and Jewish students responded to the lifting of restrictions by flooding to the university to pursue their academic studies and plan careers, feeling comfortable in the university environment of equality. An immigration influx of Muslims and Arabs to Canada has brought a new threat to the comfort of Jewish students in academic institutions, where activist Muslim groups have incited 'progressive' leftists to rally to the 'cause' of Palestinians.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement gained momentum and in February of last year the SSMU managed to pass the BDS motion for the university through the student body, though a minuscule number of the actual student body voted for BDS. The activists on the student council, after a year and a half of previous agitation to pass BDS, succeeded. In the very same month, almost to a day, the Parliament of Canada passed a motion condemning the BDS movement taking place in Canada, equating it with anti-Semitism.

More recently, a student politician at McGill, Igor Sadikov used his Twitter account to invite followers to "punch a Zionist". That invitation led to no little amount of consternation and condemnation, but as well, support. Targeting McGill's Jewish students for violence, both verbal and physical is not reflective of a civil society, but Canadian academic society has become anything but civil in the last several years with political agitation aimed at condemning the State of Israel, and by default, Jewish students at Canadian universities.

The board of directors of the Students' Society of McGill University where Sadikov sits to represent political students rejected a motion calling for his removal from the board, by a vote of five to four. Elected representatives chose to refuse to denounce this student, standing by, as instead of removing and denouncing someone who clearly incited to violence, a Jewish student was heckled and defamed as a Zionist as though that designation merited censure and did not in fact represent a clear instance of anti-Semitism.

The McGill Daily has a policy that it will not publish Zionist points of view. As a student newspaper it is meant to reflect the interests of all students at the university. When all of this latest eruption over Zionism and the place of Jewish students on campus was being discussed, the newspaper reported a complaint from a pro-Palestinian activist regarding the presence of Zionists on the student council. A quite unspeakable situation where a Jewish student who supports the State of Israel is considered persona non grata on a university student council, rejected because she is a Jew and a Zionist.

McGill now has a fairly unenviable reputation -- for a pluralist, liberal-democratic society -- as an anti-Semitic institution where bigotry against Jews and discriminatory tactics along with fairly compelling threats are the order of the day. A malicious and degrading pursuit by supporters of the slander that Israel is a threat to the living existence of Palestinians, as an apartheid state visiting violence on helpless Palestinians has gained acceptance, thanks to the presence of Muslim recruiters successfully swaying the loyalty of 'progressives' on campus.

The atrocious distortion that Jews are the aggressors and Palestinian Arabs the victims despite decades of violently murderous attacks by Arabs against Jews has gained traction building on latent anti-Semitism in Quebec and elsewhere, disabling the ability of Jewish students to feel safe and comfortable as Canadians in a Canadian academic institution. In a Canada where the Muslim population vastly outdistancing by well over a million to 385,000 the number of Jews, complains that it is suffering from "Islamophobia" when in fact incidents of anti-Semitism far outnumber those of anti-Muslim acts.

The irony being, of course, that much of the anti-Semitism that has taken hold has been given an immense boost by the enmity of the growing Muslim population against the Canadian Jewish population. A fairly accurate reflection of what is occurring when the Palestinians are identified as victims of Jewish persecution. No recognition that Palestinians inflict violence on Israeli Jews as a point of honour. Little wonder that McGill University is ranked number four in the worst of North American academic institutions to be a Jewish student, exposed to anti-Semitic discrimination.

This, at a university where a large proportion of the professors are in fact of Jewish origin. Perhaps there is hope in the fact that 150 McGill professors last year in an open letter, wrote their opinion of the BDS movement reflecting the focus of the student society; this paragraph from their letter to the university executive is telling:
"Unfortunately, in its disproportionate focus on Israel, in its founding declaration, and in many statements by key members of the movement, the BDS movement tries to squelch speech and intimidate those who support Israel’s right to exist. The BDS movement repeatedly jumps from criticizing particular Israeli policies to delegitimizing the State of Israel. The July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS quickly shifts from fighting “the occupation” to demonizing Israel to rejecting Israel’s existence. The leading BDS activist Omar Barghouti – whose calls for boycott overlook his own studies at Tel Aviv University – states a “Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinians."

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