McGill denounces anti-Israel referendum: Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center

McGill principal Suzanne Fortier

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center and B'nai Brith canada welcomed an email from McGill University denouncing an anti-Israel resolution that was passed  in a March 21 referendum by the members of the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU).

An FSWC statement says the organization "sent a letter to Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier calling on the administration to step in and address the SSMU’s decision to hold a referendum to adopt an anti-Israel 'Palestine Solidarity Policy' – which contains blatant disinformation about the State of Israel and its Jewish people – despite the fact that the student union’s Judicial Board issued an interim order for the referendum question to be removed from the ballot.

The e-mail said, "the university administration considers the recent initiative from the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) to vote by referendum on a so-called Palestine Solidarity Policy to be inconsistent with the SSMU constitution. There are also concerns about alleged irregularities in the referendum process. These views have been communicated to the SSMU leadership and the university administration has advised them to take prompt and appropriate remedial action consistent with SSMU's obligations under its Memorandum of Agreement with the university, failing which the university will take action.

"Student associations must abide by their constitution and respect the Memorandum of Agreement with McGill University. The current initiative by SSMU will lead to polarization that fosters a culture of ostracization and disrespect on the basis of students' identity, religious or political beliefs, is contrary to the University's core values of inclusion, diversity and respect, and will not be tolerated."

The e-mail said the university "firmly denounces all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. McGill has communicated with the community on several occasions over the past years, reaffirming the University's views and reiterating that diversity of opinion as fundamental and to be respected at all times.

"The McGill administration will also take all necessary measures to ensure that our students continue to feel safe and free of harassment, including holding SSMU accountable to the principles and values of its own constitution. As it has done in the past, the McGill administration will remain vigilant and committed to upholding the principles of equity and inclusion so that our campuses continue to be places in which all members of our community feel respected and safe."

FSWC commended Fortier and McGill University for "maintaining their commitment to reject divisive and discriminatory actions by the SSMU.

“We are relieved that the McGill University administration is taking this issue seriously, and we await expectantly the news that the SSMU will be cancelling its illegitimate anti-Israel policy,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, FSWC’s Director of Policy. “The State of Israel has remained the only nation to be targeted with such defamatory declarations and obscenely biased campaigns by student unions and groups, ultimately creating a toxic environment for Jewish students and staff – the majority of whom support Israel. Such divisive and discriminatory policies have no place on university campuses, and administrations have an obligation to uphold their commitments to providing an inclusive and respectful campus environment for all.”

Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada, said his organization was "encouraged by this early and principled statement of intent by the McGill Administration. No university should stand for antisemitism or votes contrary to the rule of law, and funds should not be provided to student organizations that are guilty of this conduct.

“B’nai Brith will remain actively engaged in this issue until justice is done and SSMU rescinds its extreme attacks against Jewish life on campus.”

As well, Hillel GenMTL, Federation CJA and its advocacy arm the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) released a statement commending the administration of McGill University "for taking concrete steps to address the toxic and polarizing Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) referendum. SSMU leadership ignored an interim order of the Judicial Board to suspend the referendum due to serious concerns regarding the inclusion of the 'Palestine Solidarity Policy; - best described as antisemitic, polarizing and undemocratic.

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