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June 2, 2016 7:15 pm

McGill U Professor Calls Student Judicial Ban on BDS ‘Huge;’ Says It Recognizes ‘Jewish Concerns Deserve Respect Like All Others’

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Professor Gil Troy. Photo: Facebook.

Professor Gil Troy. Photo: Facebook.

A history professor and anti-BDS warrior at McGill University in Canada responded enthusiastically to a landmark decision taken on Wednesday by the legal arm of the institution’s student body to ban anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions activities on campus.

Gil Troy, among 150 academics at McGill who recently signed an open letter lauding the principal of the university for condemning BDS and calling on faculty everywhere to do the same, told The Algemeiner on Thursday that in his view, “This decision is huge! It means that Jewish concerns are respected with all others, and that antisemitism is also recognized as bigotry, as well as something that triggers macro-aggressions.”

Troy, author of Why I Am A Zionist and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow in Jerusalem, where he lives, was responding to the “Reference re Legality of the BDS Motion and Similar Motions”  — a long, detailed “legal” document issued by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Judicial Board, which reached what it called a “unanimous” decision to eliminate efforts to promote anti-Israel boycotts at the Montreal-based school, asserting that such activities are discriminatory, unconstitutional and in violation of SSMU’s “equity policy.”

The decision came in the wake of three BDS motions over the past year and a half, which were put to a student vote at McGill and defeated.

“The fight spilled over into some antisemitic expressions on campus,” Troy said. “And while normally, from an ideological standpoint, I would prefer to see such battles fought out democratically, the BDS forces have continually ignored, disrespected and undermined the democratic process — repeatedly raising the issue despite losing. Mere days ago, they even used some sneaky, sleazy procedure to bypass the student ratification vote.”

Troy, who has been a leading member of the “Vote No” campaign to persuade professors at all Canadian universities to band together to combat the phenomenon, concluded: “I hope this wise decision will allow McGill to return to the civility and reason that has been the general tone on campus for most of my 20-plus years with this world-class institution.”

The open letter signed at the end of May, read as follows:

As faculty members, past and present, who have devoted much of our professional lives to the pursuit of education, we are proud to quote the words of McGill’s Principal Suzanne Fortier, and to take “a courageous stance against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, to promote those values of “academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse.”

As academics who represent a wide range of political views and methodologies we all know that open discourse, tolerance and respect are essential to the pursuit of truth. Boycotts and intellectual bullying have no place at any Canadian institution of higher learning.

Unfortunately, in its disproportionate focus on Israel, in its founding declaration, and in many statements by key members of the movement, the BDS movement tries to squelch speech and intimidate those who support Israel’s right to exist. The BDS movement repeatedly jumps from criticizing particular Israeli policies to delegitimizing the State of Israel. The July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS quickly shifts from fighting “the occupation” to demonizing Israel to rejecting Israel’s existence. The leading BDS activist Omar Barghouti — whose calls for boycott overlook his own studies at Tel Aviv University — states a “Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinians.” Such statements do not leave much scope for debate. The tactics of members of this propaganda movement on campuses are often intimidating and the result is divisive, and counter-productive to dialogue that seeks peaceful solutions to complex issues.

While we as signatories have many different opinions about Israel and we affirm the need for a robust debate about any country’s policies, including Israel’s, the tone and tactics of the BDS movement echo traditional anti-Semitic obsessions and tropes. As educators, we are distressed when we hear our students telling us how uncomfortable they have been made to feel by an increasingly aggressive pursuit of the anti-Israel boycott, reflected by the repeated attempts to vote it in, no matter how many times the supporters fail. We all need to affirm our commitment to fighting bigotry of all kinds, even when masked behind human rights rhetoric or even if allied with political positions we might support. We fail when our students don’t feel genuinely safe in our university — and the BDS movement has made students feel unsafe, unsupported, and unwelcome in their and our academic homes.

We appeal to all members of the Canadian academic community, especially our colleagues, our students, and our alumni, to continue supporting their university as a safe yet challenging space for respectful political discourse and true learning.

Our mission remains to educate, to promote civil discourse, and to ensure that all of our students are afforded the opportunity of free speech, and feel secure on their campus. In signing below, we emphasize our shared commitment to those goals and undertake to be vigilant in preserving the openness, tolerance, and civility that has made our years of service so rewarding, both professionally and personally.

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  • Todah Rabah! Totally right and refreshing! Congratulations to all the undersigned!

  • rich

    About time. The BDS movement is just wrong on so many levels. Backbone is needed against this movement and the propaganda machine behind it!

  • Ron Grossman

    There is nothing about BDS that is any different than that old canard, the hatred of Jewish people. That McGill stood for truth, and put this in its place speaks volumes. Thank you.

  • nat cheiman

    BDS baboons run amok not knowing that instead of harming Israel, they are helping market it.
    Consider the medical and other technology that emanates from Israel. Do the fools at BDS really believe that companies believe BDS propaganda? Of course not. If there is a cure for cancer or Leukemia or Parkinsons, people are not interested in rubbish such as BDS.
    Insofar as technology is concerned, no BDS member or country anti Israel, invents/ discovers/& produces the tech that Israel does.
    BDS and its associates are LOSERS

  • Wilf Mandel

    Is there a list of faculty who signed the letter?

  • I am a McGill graduate B. Com 1966. During my 4 years at McGill, everyone got along. There was no discrimination and there was open communication among students with no fear of discrimination or harassment. I hope this atmosphere will return. This is a step in the right direction.

    • Liz Wagner

      The last time fear and intimidation tactics found a home on U.S. college campuses was during the anti-war protests of the 1960s. This time around, I think it’s fair to say, fear and intimidation tactics were strategically imported with emigrants from the disputed territories. Fear and intimidation, spread via terror attacks against Israelis, are virtually the only tactics Palestinian leaders have been willing to employ in their dispute with Israel. They are the only tactics the PA teaches the people it claims to represent. It’s certainly been depressing to see how amenable U.S. students have been to supporting and employing such retrogressive methods on U.S. soil.

    • 1966….
      I guess that would be right after McGill abolished its Jewish quota. I’m glad you were able to get in at the right time.

  • Howard Novick, MD.

    Excellent. I was losing faith in McGill for a while there. The goal of the BDS movement is to establish Anti-Semitism as the default ideology in North America, as it is in Europe. It is fueled by Jew Hatred. A wolf in sheeps’ clothing. The ” suits division ” of the Muslim Brotherhood. The core of the conflict is not territorial but ideological. It is the Palestinian refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East, an attitude which has existed for at least a century, since the Arab rejection of the Balfour Declaration in 1917. Universities like McGill should now concentrate on reversing the false pseudohistorical narrative that has been driven into the minds of naïve college students across North America. Jews are called Jews because they originated from the hills of Judeah( and Samaria), a fact well recognized by the conquering Romans and Napolean Bonaparte who in 1799 recognized the 2000 plus year presence of the Jews in their ancestral homeland. Most students in universities are completely ignorant of Middle East history and are thus vulnerable to false doctrine. Perhaps McGill should step up to the plate to truly eductate their student population.

  • George Reinitz

    Congratulation to Mc Gill it is time to stand up for
    democracy and teech the biggets a lesson.
    George Reinitz
    A holicast survivor

  • Myron Slater

    I applaud the strong statements of this university in upholding their high academic standards. There is no place in academia for this type of discourse.

  • Lia

    So proud of McGill University!!!! You may lose some of the disgruntled BDS-activists, but think of the students you will gain! Bless you for taking a stance and maintaining it.

  • zg

    Thank you to all who devoted time and effort to clip the wings of this evil movement -BDS. In G-D’s grace, we will go from strength to strength!!!

  • Dorothy Fielding

    Thank you so much for printing this article. I am very proud of you! This is an article to share proudly with our families.