McGill Student Details Antisemitic Ugliness At Meeting Discussing “Punch-A-Zionist”-Gate
Following McGill University student rep Igor Sadikov advocating violence against Zionists, and his subsequent non-apology, a student at McGill has detailed the goings-on at a SSMU meeting on Thursday night – one that included more disturbing conduct from Sadikov and others – including outright antisemitism.
I have never felt so targeted, disgusted, or disappointed in my life. Last night, at a Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council meeting, the same representative who tweeted “punch a Zionist” said, and I quote, that “it is contested that Jews are an ethno-religious group.” In the same train of thought, he stated that there is no evidence that Jews are indigenous to the Levant. Various members of the McGill community snapped and cheered loudly upon hearing this statement. When the rest of SSMU Council (all 37 members) was called upon to condemn this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, they fell silent.
In the same meeting, I asked how SSMU and the Arts Undergraduate Society of McGill University would protect my safety as someone who identifies as Zionist. Again, I was met with silence, until the representative who initially advocated the punch said that while he regretted the way that he phrased his call for violence, he stood behind the sentiment. He then said that the violence that he was encountering after posting his thoughts on a public social media account was worse than any violence that I, as a Zionist, or my Zionist peers, would encounter or have encountered. Once again, all 37 elected members of SSMU council were completely silent. Their silence spoke volumes about how little they care about Jewish and Zionist students.
SSMU President Ben van der Ger refused to condemn the call to violence that one of his board members posted on social media, even in a crowded room. By not condemning this violence, he was condoning it, and the collective silence of the rest of the SSMU Executive made it explicitly clear that they agreed. Ben put every single McGill student in danger last night by supporting violence against a group. While I have been careful thus far to characterize the initial tweet as incitement of “political” violence, last night’s meeting made evidently clear to me that it was, in fact, advocating violence against Jews.
If this wasn’t enough, a prominent member of the BDS Action Network asked SSMU Council how they could allow a Zionist to sit on council given SSMU’s social justice mandate. Yet again, the council was completely silent, and the one representative brave enough to admit to holding Zionist beliefs was left to advocate for herself. No one should ever be told they cannot hold public office when their personal ideologies objectively do not interfere with their work, and especially not when the ideology in question stems from religious belief. If the Zionist student representative had been anything other than Jewish, the proposition would have been denounced as hate speech within seconds. It is absolutely sickening that the rest of SSMU Council did not defend Jasmine‘s right to sit on this elected body.
I really and truly thought that McGill had seen the worst of its anti-Semitic ugliness. After the McGill Daily banned Zionist contributors, the radio silence on campus made me think that perhaps the worst was over. However, seeing members of the McGill community, including the PRESIDENT OF SSMU AND SEVERAL SSMU EXECS advocate for an individual who literally called for physical violence to be inflicted upon those who identify as Zionist made it very clear to me that this is not over.
I love McGill. I love my classes and my teachers and my friends and my co-curricular involvement. I love the community that I have found here. I was happy to see the AUS call for the resignation of Igor Sadikov, and happy to see the administration condemn his tweet and assure the community that appropriate action is being taken to remedy the situation. However, I have never felt more scared or unsafe in my entire life. As good as all of those steps are, knowing that students who hold power – a vast amount of power – advocate violence against Zionists and Jews is absolutely terrifying. At the end of the day, if one of my peers takes violent action against me or any other student because of their political or religious orientation, we will know that the SSMU Legislative Council, including the SSMU executives, condoned it. Our student government completely failed ALL OF US last night, and I can honestly say that McGill is a more unsafe place today than it was yesterday because of this.
Meanwhile, Sadikov has written this post on Facebook that indicates his history of violent and racist sentiments.
It has recently been brought to my attention that, between the years of 2009 and 2012, before I entered university, I published several highly objectionable tweets of a violent and discriminatory nature on my Twitter account. These tweets are currently being used to blackmail me, and so I want to address the situation honestly and openly.
These tweets contained violent slurs and discriminatory remarks targeting racialized people, women, queer people, people with disabilities, and people with mental illness. One tweet in particular was an intentionally outrageous hateful comment toward Black people, and contained a racial slur and a reference to a hate group. While it did not accurately reflect my attitudes toward Black people at the time of its publication, this tweet was an act of violence and has caused significant harm to Black people regardless of my intent.
I deeply regret the publication of these tweets and I take responsibility for the harm that they caused. My careless use of slurs and discriminatory statements reflected the biases that I held at the time, but cannot be excused by ignorance. I should have been aware of the harmful effects of my statements, and I should not have published these tweets. I sincerely apologize for having done so.
Since 2012, I have developed my understanding of social justice through anti-oppression training, work experience, coursework, volunteering, activism, and independent learning. I stand firmly opposed to racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism, and my past behaviour is not reflective of the values that I now hold. Seeing those tweets again has reminded me that anti-oppression work is a process of continuous learning – a process that I look forward to continuing with the necessary humility.
Although I have now deleted the tweets in question, I recognize that the harm that they caused, both at the time of their publication and throughout the period during which they were available on my Twitter profile, is ongoing. Furthermore, as a student representative and as a member of activist groups on campus, I expect to be held to a high standard on equity-related matters. As such, I am offering to work with anyone who is or has been affected by my behaviour to repair and be accountable for the harm that I caused.
I remain available for further discussion of this issue. Thank you all for reading.
His current conduct indicates he is lying when he claims “I stand firmly opposed to racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism, and my past behaviour is not reflective of the values that I now hold.”
We need to keep the pressure on McGill to not only act against Sadikov, but also to ensure this antisemitism and hostile environment towards Jews and supporters of Israel is not tolerated. You can contact them here.