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December 1, 2019 8:53 pm

McGill University Student Government Seeks to Oust Jewish Representative for Accepting Hillel-Sponsored Israel Trip

avatar by Karys Rhea

The Arts Building at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Photo: Edward Bilodeau.

The Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) in Montreal, Canada has attempted to remove a Jewish student from her position on the Legislative Council over her decision to partake in a sponsored trip to Israel and the West Bank.

Second-year science student Jordyn Wright accepted an offer by the Jewish campus organization Hillel to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, and meet with politicians, journalists and locals offering multiple perspectives. According to Wright, she was hoping to “better understand a very nuanced geopolitical conflict.”

“As a Jew, my connection to Israel is a core aspect of my identity, and I hoped that this trip would help me to experience Israel through a new lens,” Wright wrote on Friday in a widely circulated Facebook Post.

Under pressure from members of the student government who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, SSMU called for Wright’s resignation on “Conflict of Interest” grounds. According to Wright, she was also interrogated by the Science Executive Committee for almost two hours with no prior warning about her decision to participate in the trip.

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“Not only were the questions designed to target and intimidate me, but I was purposefully prevented from having sufficient time to find the information they wanted,” Wright said.

Despite the fact that a fellow non-Jewish student representative would be joining Wright on the trip, only the latter was targeted for censure.

“By scrutinizing only me for participating in a trip to Israel, SSMU is engaging in this kind of anti-Semitism,” claimed Wright.

She was eventually given an ultimatum to withdraw from the trip or resign from student leadership with the threat of impeachment if she refused. “I am Jordyn Wright, and I will not resign,” she assured supporters on Facebook.

Wright also questioned the “Conflict of Interest” motive, asking why she was held to a different standard for supporting Israel than student leaders who take part in anti-Israel activism.

“Every member of student government holds a multiplicity of personal political opinions, yet we constantly and necessarily separate these from our roles as student representatives,” Wright commented. “They take issue not with the fact that I have other involvements, but that these other involvements are associated with a political view that they personally disagree with.”

Wright was initially hesitant about joining student politics due to what she called “the toxic environment, countless scandals, prohibitive anti-Israel sentiment, and antisemitism” that have garnered a “tainted image of an unfriendly campus for Jews.”

According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, which the SSMU has adopted, holding Israel to a double standard or holding Jews accountable for the actions of the Jewish state constitutes antisemitism.

“There is a double standard for anything that involves Israel at McGill,” stressed Wright.

It is unclear at this point whether the university will take action, but a spokesperson for McGill told the Algemeiner: “When our students do not feel safe on our campus because of their identity and/or political beliefs, this becomes problematic and unacceptable.”

The spokesperson added: “McGill will unequivocally remain vigilant and steadfast in providing a safe and respectful learning environment, and we will take any proper measure deemed necessary to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, welcomed and respected on our campuses.”

This is not the first time McGill’s student body has been accused of marginalizing and alienating Jewish students, particularly those who feel connected to the Jewish homeland.

In 2017, student government removed Noah Lew and two of his Jewish peers who were politically active in support of Jewish causes from the Board of Directors, before reinstating him after a university investigation. When he initially applied to the board, Lew said an older Jewish student advised him to remove anything related to Judaism or Jewish organizations from his resume or else he wouldn’t be considered for the position.

“The idea that I needed to hide my Jewish identity and affiliations, in order to have a chance of being accepted into McGill’s student government, was deeply upsetting to me,” wrote Lew in an op-ed for the Canadian Jewish News.

The pro-BDS members of the student society are part of a campaign called Democratize SSMU at McGill, which, according to Lew, singles out Jewish members on the board who support Israel, makes their Jewish identity public, and puts them on trial with the intention of removing any Jewish and pro-Israel students from leadership roles. Democratize SSMU and other student government members have been accused of using antisemitic language, including a tweet in 2017 by elected student representative Igor Sadikov that advocated twitter users “punch a Zionist today.”

In 2016, then freshman Molly Harris wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post claiming a student publication refused to write about antisemitism on campus because the issue was already covered in “mainstream Zionist media.” Harris expressed how she was regularly called a “Zionist b***”, told “that Jews haven’t suffered” and often heard from social justice clubs that “Zionism underpins many of the world’s problems,” a classic antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jews controlling the world.

Despite the fact that Harris believed in a two-state solution and social justice issues such as gender inequality, homophobia, and the racial opportunity gap, Harris says that she, along with her Jewish peers, were excluded from social-justice clubs merely because support for Israel played an integral role in her identity.

In 2017, Algemeiner named McGill University as the ninth worst North American college campus for Jewish students.

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