Vote to keep pro-Israel candidates out of student government not anti-Semitic, Montreal university report finds


MONTREAL (JTA) — A McGill University internal investigation absolved students involved in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel of outright anti-Semitism on campus but decried Jew hatred, triggering mixed reactions from the Jewish community.

The report written by retired McGill ombudsman Spencer Boudreau, which was released on Tuesday, asserted that anti-Semitism played no role in the removal of Jewish student Noah Lew and two pro-Israel peers from the Montreal school’s student government in October.

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, while criticizing the report for “not reaching a clear conclusion” and not citing the targeting of pro-Israel students as “anti-Semitic in effect,” welcomed the response by McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier to “concerns raised by many students, both Jewish and non-Jewish, regarding incidents of anti-Semitism and discrimination at McGill.”

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn, however, labeled the report a “whitewash” that does not seriously grapple with issues of anti-Semitism at the university. Mostyn said the report “does not present a full or accurate picture of the hostile atmosphere facing Jewish students at McGill, and inexplicably ignores the common definition of anti-Semitism used in Canada.”

McGill launched the report in the wake of events last October, when candidates for the Student Society, or SSMU, were voted on individually at a General Assembly meeting rather than as a block, as was customary. The individual vote tally kept one Jewish and two non-Jewish pro-Israel students from earning seats in the student government.

Lew, the Jewish student, said he and his fellow pro-Israel students were targeted by a McGill BDS group, Democratize SSMU, which included Igor Sadikov, a student who earned notoriety in February 2017 when he tweeted “Punch a Zionist” today.”

The vote was overturned two months later by the SSMU’s own judicial board and the original slate was affirmed in an online vote last month, giving the three pro-Israel candidates seats on the SSMU board. But the controversy appeared to leave yet another bitter taste in pro-Israel mouths on campus.

McGill is the site of several pro-BDS motions that ultimately failed in recent years.

Still in place at the campus newspaper, The McGill Daily, however, is a policy that bars pro-Zionist voices from appearing on its pages.

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