Jewish community reacts to McGill University’s ruling against its student union’s antisemitic policy
Montreal – Hillel GenMTL, Federation CJA and its advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) commend the administration of McGill University for taking concrete steps to address the toxic and polarizing Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) referendum. SSMU leadership ignored an interim order of the Judicial Board to suspend the referendum due to serious concerns regarding the inclusion of the “Palestine Solidarity Policy” – best described as antisemitic, polarizing and undemocratic.
In the SSMU recent Winter 2022 referendum, a question on whether the SSMU should adopt a policy called the “Palestine Solidarity Policy” appeared on the ballot. The policy, which does not mention Israel by name, is a thinly veiled attempt at targeting, marginalizing, and ostracizing Jewish and pro-Israel clubs on campus.
The policy calls for divestment and boycott, while campaigning the university to do the same of all corporations and institutions they deem complicit in “settler colonial apartheid”.
While the referendum passed, it has yet to be ratified by the SSMU Board of Directors and now SSMU leadership has been given notice by Deputy Provost Fabrice Lebeau to take remedial action or face the termination of their Memorandum of Agreement by the University. In his message to the McGill community, the Deputy Provost noted that SSMU acted in ‘contradiction with the principles expressed by SSMU in its own constitution’.
Similarly, at Concordia, a referendum question in the most recent Concordia Student Union referendum called for the boycott and divestment of states and businesses involved in apartheid. This question passed with 86% approval. The definition of apartheid, according to this position, should be based on the widely rejected, antisemitic, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports, which accuse Israel of apartheid.
Danielle Fuchs, President of Hillel Montreal:
“It’s been a stressful few weeks as a Jewish student at McGill. A few of us have been publicly shamed and accused of being xenophobic, racist, or even of working for the Israeli government. There’s been a ton of antisemitism on social media as well. It’s been really scary for Jewish students, especially those of us whose names and faces are associated with Jewish life at McGill. I’ve been a lot more hesitant to wear things that make me visibly Jewish or disclose that I’m Jewish to peers in my classes. It’s been really hard to focus on schoolwork.”
Nicole Nashen, President of Hillel Concordia:
“Over the past two weeks, so many students reached out to me expressing how scared and uncomfortable they felt on campus with the apartheid campaign. Students overwhelmingly told me things like, ‘I received their flyers, and I knew that they were campaigning against me’. I also saw the Concordia Jewish community come together to support each other. The pride that I felt in my Concordia Jewish community was so much stronger than the hate I felt on campus and, for that, I am so proud.”
Jessica Itzcovitch, Manager, Campus Advocacy-Hillel, Federation CJA:
“Antisemitism is not only becoming more rampant on campuses but is becoming institutionalized in student unions. Through carefully worded policies, Jewish and pro-Israel students and groups are being ostracized from student life. It is extremely troubling to see policies that so blatantly target Jewish groups, under the guise of social justice.”
Naomi Mazer, Director, Hillel Montreal, Student Engagement, Federation CJA:
“The double standard Israel is held to within student unions is unparalleled as year after year student unions focus on condemning Israel. We repeatedly see our students singled out and demonized for any affiliation with Israel. Antizionist sentiment leading to Jewish students being excluded and penalized for their Jewish Identities and affiliations to Israel is a regular occurrence. The current SSMU situation is a clear violation of democratic process, and we are looking to McGill leadership to correct these injustices and address the toxic environments rampant across Montreal campuses. We welcome the day when Jewish students can proudly express their identities and beliefs without fear.”
Eta Yudin, VP, CIJA Quebec:
“We immediately raised our concerns about the divisive and unconstitutional student referendum at McGill over the past few weeks with the highest levels of senior administration. I am pleased that both Principal Fortier and Deputy Provost LeBeau demonstrated leadership in addressing this very serious situation on campus.
Antisemitism, intolerance, and attempts to polarize campus life have no place on campus. We hear from many students and parents about the incredible toll these campaigns take on their mental health and well-being. We will continue to work with our partners at Federation CJA and Hillel to fight antisemitism, racism and build bridges. It is reassuring that McGill University leadership stands by its commitment to ensuring an inclusive and safe environment for all students.”
Yair Szlak, CEO of Federation CJA:
“We are gratified that McGill University has wisely judged that the deteriorating situation created ‘excessive polarization’ and encouraged a ‘culture of ostracization and disrespect due to students’ identity, religious or political beliefs, and are in contradiction with the University’s values of inclusion, diversity, and respect’. I applaud our advocacy arm, CIJA, for working closely with our student organization, Hillel, and opening a meaningful dialogue with university administration. Most of all, our students are to be commended for their resolute and poised actions in defending their beliefs in a distressing environment.”
An initiative of Federation CJA and an integral part of the array of Jewish engagement and identity offerings through the Jewish Identity Montreal department of Federation CJA, Hillel Montreal is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students on University and CEGEP campuses. Hillel Montreal supports and facilitates student initiatives that promote Jewish values. We are a nondenominational, pluralistic, safe space to meet the needs of all Jewish students. Everyone is welcome to contribute to maintaining a vibrant, young Jewish community through grassroots programming and volunteering. Hillel promotes developing leadership skills to equip tomorrow’s leaders today. We are proudly pro-Israel/Zionist and are proud to be a space where students can learn and experience new perspectives and learn to respectfully disagree and build bridges. Hillel Montreal strives to be a valuable member and partner within the greater campus community.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is the advocacy agent of the Jewish Federations across Canada.
About Federation CJA
For over one hundred years, Federation CJA has been at the heart of the organized Jewish community in Montreal. In partnership with a vast network of agencies and organizations locally, nationally, and internationally, Federation CJA builds and sustains this community by providing leadership and by supporting the delivery of services and programs to care for the vulnerable and those in need, to ensure a bright Jewish future, to represent communal interests, and to positively affect issues in the wider society.
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