At a meeting last month of the General Assembly of the McGill’s Student Society, or SSMU, seven students were voted onto the board. But three others – one of them Jewish and a previous board member, and all known for their pro-Israel stances – were denied seats.
“I was blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliation with Jewish organizations,” Noah Lew, a third-year arts student, posted on his Facebook page after the vote.
Lew and Jewish groups in Canada alleged that campus groups supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel were behind the bid to keep pro-Israel students off the undergraduate board. One group, called Democratize SSMU, includes Igor Sadikov, a student who earned notoriety last February for his “Punch a Zionist today” tweet.
Democratize SSMU, in a Facebook post in the days following the vote, admitted that its campaign to unseat pro-Israel students “was insensitive to anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish people as corrupt and politically powerful,” and apologized “ureservedly” for it.
The post also said: “We thoroughly apologize for any harm that the statement caused. We want to validate that anti-Semitism is not acceptable anywhere, and is a real and toxic force in our society and on campus.”
In a second post, the group further explained: “BDS politics should not have to play a part in the (Board of Director’s) decisions, actions, or electability. These matters are outside the scope and jurisdiction of this unelected body. However, Lew, an active member of Zionist organizations, could not separate his politics from his duties as a Director.”
The post continued that Lew’s support of a Student Society Judicial Board decision that would deem BDS and other similar movements unconstitutional “constitut(ed) an abuse of power, effectively preventing Palestine solidarity efforts on campus.”
McGill’s principal, Suzanne Fortier, said in a statement that the university is addressing the “disturbing allegations of anti-Semitism,” and that a task force and support line will be created for the campus community.