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December 3, 2019 8:26 pm

Canadian Jewish Groups Hail McGill University’s Backing of Student Targeted Over Israel Trip

avatar by Karys Rhea

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

Canadian Jewish groups have welcomed McGill University’s decision to stand by a student who was targeted over her intention to participate in a free trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories offered by the school’s Hillel chapter.

The Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) voted to remove second-year science student Jordyn Wright from her position on the school’s Legislative Council unless she backed out of the trip.

The SSMU solely targeted Wright, who is Jewish, despite the fact that a non-Jewish student representative was also planning to go on the trip.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), called what happened to Wright “blatant antisemitism,” and urged the McGill administration to prevent Wright from being forced to choose between “participating in a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories and participating in student government.”

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In response to outrage from the Jewish community and beyond, the deputy provost of student life and learning at McGill sent out an email on Monday rejecting the motion against Wright and characterizing SSMU’s behavior as “discriminatory.”

“While diversity of opinion is fundamental and should be respected at all times, polarization that reaches a point where it fosters a culture of ostracization, or when our students do not feel respected on our campuses because of their identity, religious and political beliefs, will not be tolerated,” wrote Fabrice Labeau.

Labeau also said the vote diverged from “SSMU’s own Constitution” and represented “a very serious breach of trust.”

Hillel Montreal applauded the statement on Facebook and slammed SSMU for “trying to deny these students the ability to exercise their personal and academic freedom.”

B’nai Brith Canada called the statement  “EXCELLENT” on Twitter, and thanked McGill for “supporting their student publicly and proudly against what is clearly a spreading trend of antisemitism, intimidation and discrimination on Canadian campuses.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center similarly commended the McGill administration, with its president and CEO, Avi Benlolo, stating, “As we witness a growing trend on Canadian university campuses of students targeting and attacking Jewish students simply because of their connection to Israel, it is up to administration to step up and take immediate steps to ensure the rights of all students are protected as well as respect and tolerance is maintained.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it was “hopeful” Labeau’s statement “will have its intended effect and that tonight the student body will firmly reject the harassment intimidation and exclusion of its members.”

Several SSMU members have published an open letter condemning the motion and called on the Board of Directors to reverse it.

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