Three chosen Students’ Society of McGill University board members were called to be removed from their appointments after a vote at the Fall General Assembly last night due to a “Jewish conflict of interest.”
What spurred this initiative? On September 17th, the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), an unelected body, ratified a non-binding Judicial Board opinion declaring that the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and any “similar motions” brought to the SSMU General Assembly contradicts the SSMU Constitution. The Democratize SSMU campaign is not only a response to the decision itself, but also to the undemocratic and unconstitutional nature in which it was approved.
The campaign then introduced its strategy, to remove all those they disagree with due to “conflict of interests” which arose from their “biases”:
The political affiliations of the Board’s members at large, the clear bias of the SSMU Nominating Committee in selecting these members, and the abuse of power by the Board’s Chair, President Muna Tojiboeva, all point to a pressing need to reform the SSMU Constitution and Internal Regulations in order to prevent this type of political corruption–which happens year after year–from continuing on any longer.
The campaign then went on to say, according to my source at McGill, that “they took issue with some of the members due to a Jewish conflict of interest.”
They later changed their language, apologizing for so blatantly playing into antisemitic tropes, to something more “palatable” i.e. they changed conflict of interest to being a fellow at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) or an organizer for the anti-BDS initiative at McGill:
Additionally, three unelected BoD members-at-large–who also make up the Nominating Committee in its entirety, are all either fellows at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), an organization whose explicit mandate is to promote pro-Israel discourse in Canadian politics, or primary organizers for the anti-BDS initiative at McGill. Given that such a controversial motion was in the hands of the Board, Directors with such partisan politics should not have had the power to stage this vote without student consultation or declaring their conflicts of interest.
This really makes one wonder if their tone would change if these three board members were pro-Palestinian. Moreover, by “unelected,” they mean unelected by the student body rather than the Board of Directors itself, which is how most Boards of Directors are selected.
My source opines that, “If the basic idea behind it is antisemitic, changing their language doesn’t change their reasoning.”
The campaign then tries to obscure its real goals – to get BDS back on campus – with a whole wall of text virtue-signalling about how the board of directors needs more transparency, accountability, and a few other words people like.
At the General Assembly, someone from the campaign said that she didn’t feel comfortable with the names on the list. When asked to clarify her position, she said it was because the names didn’t sound diverse enough for her. Without so much as a debate, they proceeded to vote off a Jewish member of the BoD and two other members who were seen as being sympathetic to Jews (one of whom has a Jewish-sounding last name as well). One of the students who was voted off, Noah Lew, recalls:
“There was not one word of discussion or debate about my qualifications for the position. I was simply voted down. As soon as it was apparent that I was voted out of the position, there was applause.”
The motion, blatant antisemitism couched in feel-good language, passed, sending shock waves through the school’s tight-knit Jewish community.
Lew released a statement detailing the turn of events:
“When I applied, an older Jewish student with a great deal of knowledge about SSMU told me that I needed to remove everything related to Judaism and Jewish organizations from my resume, or else I would have no chance of being even considered for the position.
He then described the intense backlash from the BDS movement due to his strong support of the Judicial Board decision to declare BDS unconstitutional, claiming all those who were voted off instead of ratified were those who shared his opposition to BDS:
Historically, the Board of Directors had been ratified as a bloc, all 12 at a time. In an unprecedented move, the BDS/Democratize SSMU campaign supporters who had shown up to the GA forced a division of the motion to ratify the Board of Directors into 12 individual votes on each Director. My name was the 6th one. The first 5 directors were ratified with not enough opposition to even warrant counting votes. When my name came up, over 100 students raised their placards in opposition to my ratification, and I was not ratified as a Director.
The BDS movement 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 opposed the BDS movement and because they had attempted to support McGill’s Jewish students.
He declared that this event was proof that BDS is indeed antisemitic:
If BDS is not anti-Semitic, why was I barred from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity?
McGill student and Hasbara Fellow David Naftulin also posted in the aftermath, wondering whether he is really welcomed here at McGill.
I watched as people I know–people I thought were allies, people I thought were progressives–raised their placards to vote against the confirmation of a Jewish member on the Board of Directors because he was Jewish. They argued that, because he is active in the Jewish community, that he cannot represent the student body. This is a double-standard, an ancient form of anti-Semitism. If a minority of another type had their executive position questioned for simply being part of their community, it would have been vocally condemned by the very same people who applied it to the Jews last night.
His concern was not only the double standard, but that no one else at the assembly seemed to care.
[UPDATED 24/10/2017, 8:40pm:]
It hurts me to my core that after over 3,000 years of oppression, Jewish voices are still not seen as important, we are still not considered worthy of being listened to.
McGill Student and other Hasbara Fellow Grace Miller-Day adds:
“The three Board of Director nominations that were rejected – Noah Lew, Alex Scheffel and Josephenine O’Manique – were all Directors associated with supporting Muna Tojiboeva, being associated with Jews on campus, or, in Noah’s case, being Jewish himself. Earlier in the semester, the “Democratize SSMU” movement called out the Zionist and Jewish directors of the Board by name, placing them within anti-Semitic tropes of “corrupt and politically powerful” Today 160 people voted no for Director Lew for one reason; because he was Jewish.” I have never been so ashamed of my school.”
While the vote needs to be ratified online by the rest of the student body to take effect, the message was sent to Jewish students at McGill: The student body doesn’t welcome you here, especially as a representative.