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February 25, 2016 7:51 am

McGill’s Pro-Israel Community Fearful of ‘What’s to Come’ After BDS Victory

avatar by Andrew Pessin

McGill University Arts Building, in Montreal, Canada. Photo: wiki commons.

McGill University Arts Building, in Montreal, Canada. Photo: wiki commons.

It wasn’t just that Monday’s student government debate at McGill University was itself long and tiring, one student activist told The Algemeiner. Before losing the vote there were weeks of work leading up to that night, “involving a strong team of hard-working students … We created a ‘Vote No’ campaign that advertised [widely], sought endorsements from student groups and politicians and had many in-person conversations.”

All that effort “has a significant toll on us,” McGill faculty member Yael Halevi-Wise summarized on a Jewish faculty listserv. When reached by The Algemeiner, the professor of Jewish studies stressed “the fatigue [from] having to orchestrate a defense, semester after semester,” noting that similar resolutions supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel had failed at McGill three times in the past few years.

Exploiting this fatigue seems to have been an intentional tactic, Halevi-Wise suggested. “[L]ast spring, [Steven] Salaita was invited to campus on a “free speech” platform, and after his talk, he told BDS advocates to persevere and push their motion again and again until they succeeded. Salaita won a $875,000 settlement from the University of Illinois last year, after the university had earlier withdrawn its employment offer due to his controversial anti-Israel tweets in 2014.

Another important difference between this year’s result and that of previous years, Halevi-Wise said on the listserv, was: “Our students are in the midst of writing midterms this week. If they take the time to fight the BDS onslaught, their grades suffer. If they do nothing, BDS wins the day. Not many dare to take time off from their studies to come out, semester after semester, to fight this ridiculous emotional battle.”

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Halevi-Wise had heard from a number of students who were “quite distraught about the results” of Monday’s vote.

The student activist above was also disturbed by the aftermath of the vote. The passage of the motion, she told The Algemeiner, “sadly will affect the students and campus atmosphere. [There was] a barrage of antisemitic messages on both Yik Yak [an anonymous online chatroom] and Twitter,” she said, adding that these “illustrate [the] unfortunate and expected consequence of a pro-BDS motion passing on campus.” Such “hateful rhetoric,” she concluded, “make[s] me fear for what is to come.”

Monday’s student government vote must still be ratified by the larger student body. That vote will occur within the week, according to The McGill Daily.

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