A Climate of Intolerance At McGill University

The McGill University campus

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, something is rotten at McGill University in Montreal.

McGill, one of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning, is being dragged through the mud by a cabal of toxic students who can’t tolerate free speech and diversity of opinion, the very qualities a university should uphold and encourage.

Last week, three students were voted off the student government’s board of directors, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). By all accounts, all three were targeted for removal either because they are Jewish and pro-Israel, or have voiced opposition to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel bias on campus.

Noah Lew, one of the students who lost his position on the board, was identified as a supporter of Democratize SSMU, a group opposed to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is patently anti-Israel. The Israel haters who orchestrated Lew’s removal were apparently upset by a decision taken by the SSMU in 2016 to implement a resolution describing the BDS movement as discriminatory. Their objective was clear — to thwart the implementation of this resolution.

Noah Lew

Lew, having been ousted from the board, was initially “very shaken.” In an essay explaining the swift turn of events, he wrote, “There was not one word of discussion or debate about my qualifications for the position. I was simply voted down. And as soon as it was apparent that I was voted out of the position, the room erupted in applause.”

He added, “I have no doubt from the information circulated about me, and the campaign run against me prior to the vote, that this was about my Jewish identity, and nothing more. I was blocked from being able to participate in my student government because I am Jewish, because I have been affiliated with Jewish organizations and because I believe in the right to Jewish self-determination.

“The BDS supporters had accomplished their mission: they had succeeded in barring a Jewish student from participating in McGill’s student government. After me, two other directors were voted down, as well, because they also opposed the BDS movement and because they had attempted to support McGill’s Jewish students.

“Time and time again, we have heard people say that BDS is not antisemitic. Yet if this were true, why did a BDS-led campaign name and shame me for my affiliation with a Jewish organization and call on students to remove me from student government for this reason? If BDS is not antisemitic, why was I barred from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity?”

An excellent question.

This is not the first time that Jewish supporters of Israel at McGill have been marginalized and insulted by vocal partisans of the Palestinian cause.

For some time now, the McGill Daily, the university-financed student newspaper, has steadfastly refused to publish “Zionist content.”

Igor Sadikov

Last winter, Igor Sadikov, a member of the SSMU, posted a message on his Facebook page advising fellow students to “punch a Zionist.” Sadikov’s espousal of violence, a violation of  Canada’s Criminal Code, caused an uproar and forced him to issue an apology.

But judging by last week’s removal of three pro-Israel students from the SSMU, McGill is still plagued by the anti-Zionist contagion.

Thankfully, McGill’s president, Suzanne Fortier, has not tried to sweep the issue under the rug.

“In a statement, she said, “Allegations have arisen suggesting that the votes against one or more of these (student) directors were motivated by antisemitism. We take such matters very seriously, as it is essential for McGill University to maintain an environment where different views and ideas can be expressed and debated with mutual respect.”

Suzanne Fortier

Fortier, in this spirit, adopted two timely initiatives. She launched an investigation to “determine the facts.” And she established a telephone line enabling students to report “incidents of intolerance based on religion or ethnic origin” on campus.

Fortier, however, can do more to discourage this festering climate of intolerance at McGill.

She can ascertain whether the removal of Lew, the Jewish student, was motivated by racism. And she can withdraw funding from the McGill Daily unless it drops its odious ban on “Zionist content” and conforms to the Quebec Press Council’s Code of Ethics.

One can only hope that Fortier has the fortitude to stand up for what is right.