Students’ Society nominee subject to ‘anti-semitic tropes’; two other anti-BDS students voted out of governing body
The student government of a Canadian university stands accused of anti-semitism after an activist group conducted what some have called a “smear campaign” against a Jewish student, with the group openly admitting to utilizing anti-Semitism in its campaign against the student in question.
The controversy began after McGill University’s Judicial Board, a panel consisting of seven students, voted in September to reject an anti-Israel boycott/divestment/sanction referendum before the Student Society’s general assembly. The board claimed that “picking a side” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would undermine the student government’s “ability to create an open, inviting atmosphere for students of Israeli origins,” according to The Algemeiner.
The ruling inspired numerous students to form the activist group “Democratize SSMU,” which, according to the group’s Facebook page, was created “as a reaction to the unjust…ruling declaring BDS unconstitutional.” That group has around 150 Facebook followers.
As part of its activist efforts following its formation, Democratize SSMU mounted a campaign that singled out three members of the student government, all of them Jewish, according to the National Post. These students, the group claimed, were “all either fellows at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, an organization whose explicit mandate is to promote pro-Israel discourse in Canadian politics, or primary organizers for the anti-BDS initiative at McGill.”
One of the targeted students, Noah Lew, who is Jewish, was up for ratification to the student government’s Board of Directors. His ratification was denied by a resounding vote of 105 against, with 73 in favor and 12 abstaining. Two other anti-BDS directors, Josephine Wright O’Manique and Alexander Scheffel, were also voted out.
Following the vote, Democratize SSMU in late October admitted to utilizing anti-Semitic rhetoric in its campaign against Lew, writing on its Facebook page:
Democratize SSMU would like to apologize unreservedly for the harm that was done through some of our campaign material. The material in question has since been deleted, but for transparency’s sake we would like to apologize for the way in which an event created by this campaign was insensitive to anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish people as corrupt and politically powerful. 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.
The school’s principal, Suzanne Fortier, launched an investigation into the issue, setting up a hotline so people “can report incidents of intolerance based on religion or ethnic origin occurring on our campuses,” according to National Post. The university is also instituting a “task force” to “examine broader questions of academic freedom and equity.”
A representative from Democratize SSMU told The Fix: “Both Lew and Scheffel were involved in passing two extremely controversial decisions in just the last month, [without informing the public of them] in their fulfilling their role of making a political decision about who will represent them. We apologize for any harm that has been done, while at the same time reaffirming our aims, which are to make democracy at SSMU accessible, transparent, and meaningful, not to create division within the student body… We will continue to fight for a more democratic SSMU.”
The representative claimed that Lew is “an active member of Zionist organizations” and said that his “politics interfered with his duties as a Director.”
In a statement, StandWithUs, a pro-Israel activist organization, condemned the “smear campaign” against the Jewish students, urged the McGill administration to “publicly condemn this bigotry” and call on SSMU to reverse their vote.
“We are proud of McGill students who are standing up to hate on their campus,” the organization said.
The College Fix reached out to Lew for comment. Lew originally agreed to speak to The Fix, but he subsequently decided against it, writing: “Truthfully, I think I am going to step back from all of the media and focus on sschool [sic] right now.”
McGill University did not respond to requests for comment.
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