McGill Student Council Silence Over Member’s Tweet Calling on Followers to ‘Punch a Zionist’ Outrages, Frightens Jews, Pro-Israel Activists on Campus
Pro-Israel activists at Montreal’s McGill University told The Algemeiner on Monday that they are outraged at the failure of the student government to condemn one of its representatives for calling on his Twitter followers last week to “punch a Zionist.”
Simon Paransky, co-president of Israel on Campus at the Canadian school, called it appalling that the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) did not denounce the social media call for violence by Igor Sadikov, a SSMU Legislative Council and Board of Directors member, who not only didn’t apologize for his rhetoric, but doubled down on it.
Sadikov defended his statement on Thursday in an interview with The Algemeiner, saying it expressed his “opposition to Israel’s dispossession and colonization of Palestinian land and to the treatment of Palestinian people as second-class,” in the same way that he is against “colonialism in Canada, the United State and elsewhere in the world.”
On Thursday, during an SSMU meeting, Sadikov failed to retract his tweet and told those in attendance that “it is contested Jews are an ethno-religious group.” Referring to his statement as a “clear and unequivocal antisemitic trope,” Paransky said that when Sadikov was called out for this at a meeting of the Legislative Council, nobody spoke up.
“For blatant antisemitism to be greeted with silence is simply unacceptable,” he said. “No other group on campus would have to justify why it doesn’t deserve to be targeted, after being threatened with violence.”
Another McGill student leader, who requested anonymity for fear of backlash, told The Algemeiner, “It’s scary that a person’s call to violence, based on his political beliefs, is being accepted here on campus. It’s not a nice feeling to be in a situation where you can’t express your political views in a place where you should be able to have a safe discussion. The Jewish and Zionist community is greatly disappointed by the student government’s response.”
In a Facebook post on Friday, which has since been widely shared, McGill student Molly Harris said she has never felt “so targeted, disgusted or disappointed” as she did after attending the Legislative Council meeting.
I asked how SSMU and the Arts Undergraduate Society of McGill University would protect my safety as someone who identifies as Zionist. Again, I was met with silence, until the representative who initially advocated the punch said that while he regretted the way that he phrased his call for violence, he stood behind the sentiment. He then said that the violence that he was encountering after posting his thoughts on a public social media account was worse than any violence that I, as a Zionist, or my Zionist peers, would encounter or have encountered. Once again, all 37 elected members of SSMU council were completely silent. Their silence spoke volumes about how little they care about Jewish and Zionist students….
I have never felt more scared or unsafe in my entire life…knowing that students who hold power — a vast amount of power — advocate violence against Zionists and Jews is absolutely terrifying.
McGill officials said in a statement that Sadikov could face disciplinary action for his “disturbing” tweet.
Meanwhile, the editor of the campus newspaper The McGill Daily — which Sadikov used to edit — framed the tweet, pointing to it as an “alleged incitement to violence,” and claiming that since it was “posted to [his] personal account after working hours,” it should not count against him.
The controversy surrounding the tweet, he said, “rests on the conflation of Zionism with Jewishness which, while widely believed, is in fact a misconception; many Jewish people do not identify with the settler-colonial ideology of Zionism or the goals and actions of the state of Israel.”
The McGill Daily, as The Algemeiner reported, has openly admitted to censoring pro-Israel content on the grounds that Zionism is a product of “settler colonial ideology.”
McGill — which ranked fourth on The Algemeiner‘s 2016 list of the “40 Worst Colleges for Jewish Students” in North America — has been described by students as one of the most contentious institutions in Canada for Jews and Israel-supporters.