Anti-Semitism at McGill University: student asked to resign from student government after accepting an educational trip to Israel and Palestine

This story is reported by the Times of Israel, Haaretz, the Forward (which misnames Jordyn as “Jocelyn”), the Jerusalem Post (click on screenshot below) and other places, but not in the mainstream press, or even in Lefty clickbait sites like Salon or HuffPost.  It’s just one more instance of the anti-Semitism spreading on college campuses, but this time in Canada instead of the U.S.

What happened can be stated in brief: a student at McGill University, Jordyn Wright, also a member of McGill’s Students’ Society (SSMU) Legislative Council, and on the board of directors of that Society, was, as the Post reports, “invited to participate this month in a Hillel-sponsored trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories called ‘Face-to-Face.’” Because of that trip, the council demanded that she either deep-six the trip or resign from the organization.

On Friday, the university’s legislative council passed a resolution calling on members of student leadership to decline “gifts that may create an appearance of a conflict of interests.” Posting on Facebook, Wright wrote that the council “voted to give me an ultimatum: either I withdraw from the trip, or I resign from my position. If I do not resign, I am being implicitly threatened with impeachment upon my return.”

What the “conflict of interest” is is obscure, but I suspect that it’s a conflict between Wright’s interest in Israel and the student council’s dislike of Israel.

A post on the Hillel Montreal public Facebook page includes a pretty damning statement by Jordyn detailing the harassment and discrimination she and other Jewish students have experienced at McGill. It seems pretty horrific. Here’s a small excerpt (my emphasis):

This winter break, I have decided to participate in a trip called Face to Face that is being offered by Hillel Montreal, an organization that I have been involved with since I first arrived at McGill. The trip entails visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories to meet with politicians, journalists, and locals from all sides 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.

As a result of my decision to participate on the trip, last night, the SSMU Legislative Council voted to call for my resignation from my positions in student government. The SSMU President personally singled me out, and actively encouraged others to attack me. Only I was targeted, despite the fact that another non-Jewish Councillor will also be joining me on the trip. I am outraged and disgusted, but not surprised. This is not the first time that Jewish students at McGill have been bullied out of student government.

I have also been subject to attacks by members of student government in my own faculty. At Science’s General Council last week, I was blindsided and interrogated on-the-spot for almost two hours about my participation in Hillel Montreal’s trip. 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.

This week, the Science Executive Committee also voted to give me an ultimatum: either I withdraw from the trip, or I resign from my position. If I do not resign, I am being implicitly threatened with impeachment upon my return.

. . .I am proud to be Jewish. Israel is the country with which I identify my heritage and culture, and I am lucky to call it a second home. My personal views do not preclude my sympathy for the continued suffering of the Palestinian people. I never hid my identity when I ran for my position. I am an open book, and Judaism is an integral part of who I am.

McGill’s student leaders consider themselves to be champions of equity, inclusivity, and diversity. I am appalled that McGill politics continues to exclude and discriminate against Jewish students.

It is time to end this pattern of anti-Semitism deeply embedded in the SSMU that continually targets Jewish or Zionist students year after year. We must demand better of the people we elected to serve us.

Science demands that I resign as a Councillor. SSMU demands that I resign as a Director.

I am Jordyn Wright, and I will not resign.

Good on her!

What makes this anti-Semitic is that her supposed approbation for Israel, as instantiated by this trip, was sufficient to prompt calls for her resignation. Would a student visiting Palestine be similarly ousted? I don’t think so.  What’s more, and what’s more damning, is that another non-Jewish student, and also on the same Council, was scheduled to go on the same trip but was not asked to resign (see bolded bit above). That’s a clear indication that Wright was being singled out because she was Jewish. And that’s anti-Semitism.

I’m appalled by this, but it’s not that uncommon in the U.S. This year, for instance, the student leaders in the Williams College Council refused to give student group status to a pro-Israel organization (WIFI), simply because they were pro-Israel. The College administration had to do an end run around that to force recognition of the group. One of the hallmarks of anti-Semitism, as Jordyn notes, is to demonize someone for supporting Israel, which is simply pro-Zionism. And even McGill’s student society abides by that definition:

SSMU passed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which includes that holding Jews accountable for the actions of the Israeli government or holding Israel to a double standard is anti-Semitic. By scrutinizing only me for participating in a trip to Israel, SSMU is engaging in this kind of anti-Semitism by assuming I have to be held accountable for what the Israeli government is doing.

I dont think that SSMU has a valid counter to that point!

O Canada—et tu McGill? I’m frankly a bit surprised that a good Canadian university would participate in these shenanigans. But on the plus side, a reader sent me a response from McGill’s Deputy Provost, defending Wright in no uncertain terms. I reproduce it below.  (There’s a French version too, of course.)

From: MRO McGill Staff <mcgillstaff.mro@mcgill.ca>
Sent: Monday, December 2, 2019 2:14 PM
To: x-All McGill Staff <x-AllMcGillStaff@campus.mcgill.ca>; 000-All McGill Students <x-000-AllMcGillStudents@campus.mcgill.ca>
Subject: Ensuring Respectful Debate / Assurer un débat respectueux

This message is sent on behalf of Fabrice Labeau, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning).

Dear members of the McGill community,

In recent months, we have seen increasing polarized debate among some members of the student community and student associations on political issues, particularly regarding the state of Israel.  While our University fully respects freedom of speech, it is also committed to maintaining a respectful environment for all members of our community. We are thus highly disturbed by the vote taken on November 28, 2019, by the SSMU Legislative Council, in relation to some student leaders enrolling in Hillel Montreal’s Face to Face program to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The motion approved by the SSMU Legislative Council purposely singles out an individual member of SSMU. Despite the SSMU Board of Directors previously assessing that enrolling in this program does not constitute a conflict of interest, the Legislative Council has nonetheless decided to overturn this decision by mandating its Board of Directors to start a procedure to remove this individual from the SSMU Board of Directors, should this individual choose to go on the trip.

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.

The decision made by the SSMU Legislative Council is contrary to the University’s values of inclusion, diversity and respect. Furthermore, it appears to diverge from SSMU’s own Constitution and it represents a very serious breach of trust. For that reason, we call upon the SSMU Board of Directors to seriously consider the concerns raised by students and take proper action. 

The McGill administration will continue to monitor the situation as it unfolds, and take needed measures to ensure that our students feel safe and free of harassment, including holding SSMU accountable to the principles and values of its own Constitution.

I would like to take this opportunity to make it clear that there is absolutely no place for discriminatory behaviour, attitude or discourse that run contrary to our core values and principles. As Deputy Provost, Student Life and Learning, and with a strong mandate from the Principal, I will remain vigilant to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, welcomed and respected on our campuses.

Sincerely,
Fabrice Labeau
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning)

Kudos to Provost Labeau! But the bigotry keeps on coming, for the Post also reports this tidbit:

Wright’s plight dovetails into an even more absurd controversy that erupted last month at the University of Toronto, where a student union refused to support a campaign by the school’s Hillel to make kosher food available on campus, since doing so would be “pro-Israel.”

The Graduate Student Union told a Jewish student representing Hillel in requesting support for its “Kosher Forward” campaign that supporting the kosher food campaign would go against the “will of the membership.”

After the media storm it caused, the student union apologized for “unintentionally caus(ing) harm toward the Jewish community,” but the university’s Hillel responded that “this apology does not address the antisemitic nature of their original response. This is the core issue that must be discussed.”

Now imagine that, say, Students for Justice in Palestine demanded that halal food be available at the University. Maybe that wouldn’t happen, but nobody would say that the refusal was based on the request being “pro-Palestine.” Had that happened, it would have been true bigotry against Muslims disguised as a political sentiment. But it wouldn’t have happened.

h/t: Alan

41 Comments

  1. Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    No need to like current Israeli policies (which is not the same as Israel, let alone humans in it) for one to visit it.

    It’s worrying. Does the Left ever do anything these days that wouldn’t merit the qualifier ‘regressive’?

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

      It might seem like the left are only capable of stuff like this. But it’s worth coming up for air every now and then to remind yourself that of course that’s not true. If you only read the same stuff – the same stories about the same subject – then you get a distorted view of an entire political movement.

      • EdwardM
        Posted December 3, 2019 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that’s true but it is a perilous thing for the rest of us on the left to ignore; an easy way to lose support is to cloud principles with hypocrisy.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 4, 2019 at 6:00 am | Permalink

          I think you’d be hard pressed to make the case that anyone here is in danger of ignoring the perfidies of the left. It’s the other side that concerns me. I try, in my own ham-fisted preachy way, to balance things out a bit.

  2. Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    “…to meet with politicians, journalists, and locals from all sides to better understand a very nuanced geopolitical conflict.” Now that, of course, can only be zionistic propaganda.

    (sarcasm alert)

  3. Malgorzata
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    sub.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    What the “conflict of interest” is is obscure …

    And what the construction “is is” is is what again? 🙂

    • JezGrove
      Posted December 3, 2019 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      Is that an impeachment reference Ken? As Rich Hall asked on a Radio 4 program(me) here in the UK earlier this week (I paraphrase…): “How did the semen get on the dress? Where were the Secret Service when he needed them? They’d throw themselves in front of a bullet, I’m just saying…”.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Anti-semitims, like stupid, is everywhere and it sadly is especially bad with the young Left these days. There is nothing unusual in this in Canada where Jews are just as subject to discrimination as they are in the US and where student groups see Israel as the enemy of all social justice and so attack all Jews. The good thing is the university administration has, so far, not accepted the anti-Semitism of the the Left in several cases.

  6. DrBrydon
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Why does her organization have an impeachment? It makes no sense in the context of a college council that is presumably elective. If necessary, why not a recall election? It would be less likely to abuse purely based on animus. Even then, though, is there a misdemeanor that one of these students could commit that should disable them from serving that wouldn’t also lead to their suspension or expulsion? I hate the pretense associated with college societies and student governments.

  7. Deodand
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone know when the shift from Diversity, Equality & Inclusion to Diversity, ‘Equity’ & Inclusion took place, and who was the first to use it?

  8. Posted December 3, 2019 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I was in student government at McGill over 20 years ago (Philosophy Students Association co-president). It was pretty clear then there was a “document your gifts received from the outside” policy in force. Does this apply? I don’t know, but it is *not* as simple as some of the sources make out. As for the differential enforcement, that’s stupid, but it doesn’t entail the ordinary policy is unjustified.

    As an example, we were expected to document that we had received old books as fundraisingt-to-be-sold items from a retiring professor, that we had recieved faculty (rather than student only) money for our social events, etc.

    • Posted December 4, 2019 at 5:17 am | Permalink

      Yeah, so why was the Jewish student asked to resign and the non-Jewish counselor who received an identical trip not asked?

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted December 4, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      I am struggling to understand how participating in a fact-finding visit to Israel could be perceived as a conflict of interest with Jordyn’s role as a Director of the SSMU. According to the Society’s own web-site “The Board of Directors supervises the management and administers the business and affairs of the Students’ Society of McGill University” and it must surely be the case that very, very little of this business has anything remotely to do with Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is therefore hard to see how Jordyn’s participation in this business can in any way be compromised by her participation in the Israel trip.

      • Posted December 6, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        It is not the trip, it is the fact that it is a *gift* is the problem. We (years ago, mind you) had to account for *all* sources of funding to the students’ association I helped run, including things like books for a book sale.

        The (imperfect for various reasons, granted) analogy I see is the Goethe Institut or the Confucius Institute or the Alliance Francaise giving a trip to a student government leader to go to Germany/China/France.

  9. Posted December 3, 2019 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    There is a course (free) on Future Learn: https://www.futurelearn.com/
    it is titled Antisemitism. It is a bit of a slog, but gives a lot of good historical info. GROG

  10. Posted December 3, 2019 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    A fine statement by Deputy Provost Labeau. It is firm and forthright, a welcome change from the usual academic babble.

  11. Jon Gallant
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Exercises of this sort are commonplace on the campus Left, which devotedly follows the following dicta. (1) The one country in the world that should be abolished is the only one in which 40% of agricultural output comes from worker-owned Socialist co-ops, and the only one in its region where expressing a secular outlook is not virtually suicidal. (2) Progressives should align themselves in solidarity with fundamentalist, theocratic parties like the Party of God (Hizballah in Arabic) and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Arabic acronym = Hamas). (3) Anyone who notices that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) contained the word “Islamic” is revealing a psychiatric disturbance, i.e. a phobia. (4) Freedom of speech is a right-wing concoction. One must wonder, with Nick Cohen, “What’s Left”?

    The only extenuation for the Left as a political tendency would have to rely on a fine aphorism by the philosopher and science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon. He was once taxed with the undeniable fact that 95% of sci-fi is bullshit. He sagely replied: “95% of everything is bullshit.”

  12. Posted December 3, 2019 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I expect there are faculty and perhaps administrators who are given oversight in the membership and activities of the various student organizations. Given that the main body of this student council has decided to completely fly off the rails, as it were, then there is nothing else to do but to have empowered faculty purge the anti-Semitic members of this council. Right now I see no other solution here.

  13. Jenny Haniver
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    As for the contested kosher menu at the University of Toronto, that an ancient system of culinary religious/political/gustatory taboos has itself been proscribed at a contemporary table, is food for thought.

  14. Diana MacPherson
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    The Montreal Gazette has picked up this story: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/mcgill-student-society-denies-claims-of-anti-semitism

  15. rickflick
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    O Canada!
    Our home and native land!
    (I was born there)
    I hope this nonsense is restricted to a few dolts in academia and not the entire population. Ouch!

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Stupid is everywhere.

      • Mark R.
        Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        No shit. I so often wonder what magnificent accomplishments our race could achieve if there was some way to mitigate the stupid. Stupid is like this goop in the machine that slows everything down, and needs to be cleaned regularly for proper functioning. Getting rid of religion would be a huge step in getting rid of stupid…alas, secularism moves slower than… (add metaphoric cliche here).

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted December 3, 2019 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

          Yes. And I have to say I’m a bigot when it comes to stupid. I just have no tolerance for it.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 3, 2019 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think religion can be blamed for this kind of stupid. There are many kinds of stupid. Mitigation, as you suggest, is possible. A cleaning out of the goop in the machine. To me this means education broadly construed. If we are able to provide the best education for all, the political class will have less to work with in subverting public good for their own aggrandizement, be they college newspapers or Donald tRump. Ignorance is the villain.

      • Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and they even get to the White House.

      • Jenny Haniver
        Posted December 4, 2019 at 3:16 am | Permalink

        Sometimes, I just have to sing “Super Stupid” along with Funkadelic on Maggot Brain:

        Super stupid bought a nickel bag
        Thought it was coke, but it was skag
        Super stupid did a one and one
        Then his eyes begin to water and his nose begin to run
        Oh! stupid with your ups and downs
        Your maggot brain, your grins and frowns
        Super stupid you’re here today
        You’ve lost the fight and the winner is fear
        Did-did-did did-um
        Whoa, hey

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted December 4, 2019 at 3:29 am | Permalink

          Oh, that was weird! That’s another Super Stupid. This is Funkadelic

          I’ve been spending the night into the wee hours online checking out various Super Stupids, had been watching the Giuliani doc and the URL somehow migrated to this other video. However, it’s definitely worth watching. It makes for a trifecta/tryptic of documentaries on the three old-timer unholies associated with Trump: Roy Cohn, Roger Stone, and Rudia Giuliani – Rudia’s his drag name.

          “Giuliani Time” is what the NYPD officers were alleged to have said as they beat up Abner Louima. Louima asserted and later retracted it. Who knows; all I can say is that I’ve long thought that despite whatever good he’s done, Giuliani was thoroughly unscrupulous.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted December 4, 2019 at 6:06 am | Permalink

          Funny, three days ago I listened to Maggot Brain(the song) for the first time in my life(I don’t know how I went this long without ever hearing it before). It completely smashed my mind wide open, like a mallet on a pumpkin. What a song – and all it is is that simple little guitar arpeggio in the background, with nine minutes or whatever it is of soloing over it. How can something so minimal sound so maximal?

    • Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      Think of the types who want to work in student government and student newspapers. (The Mcgill Daily is possibly the most anti-semitic student newspaper in North America.) Basically, they are losers who choose these vocations to promote their ideologies. They are NOT representative.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 3, 2019 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        That’s what I hoped. Canada is a great country. A country of immigrants even more then the U.S. is a country of immigrants. It should reflect that diversity by understanding the perspective of minorities and reject persecution of any part of the citizenry.

  16. max blancke
    Posted December 3, 2019 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Is it paranoid to think that perhaps the leftist juggernaut is being steered by people with malicious intent?
    I can see no reason why leftists would be inclined to hate the Jews and love Muslims.

    If I was starting a political movement, my first step would not be to start attacking those who have consistently shown the most support for my philosophy, and ally my movement instead with groups that oppose all of my core beliefs. It just makes no sense to me.

    And I am a person who at least understands the motivations of people who endorsed philosophies such as Manifest Destiny, Jim Crow, and even Nazism. But this just baffles me.

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted December 3, 2019 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

      Max, you are forgetting how the greatest genius of the 20th century, late in life, discovered the dark conspiracies hatched by
      all the rootless cosmopolitans. The Left’s current, virulent animus against Israel and its supporters comes straight out of the USSR at the end of Stalin’s life, and afterward.
      Once upon a time, that was widely taken as the embodiment of “The Left”.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted December 4, 2019 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      “I can see no reason why leftists would be inclined to hate the Jews”

      You can’t just lightly skip over the preponderance of lefties who are directly behind the Anti-Defamation League and pretty much every pro-Jewish group out there. Wherever there are groups that defend Jews they tend to be headed by liberals and lefties.

      Of course the right(American right at least) is very pro-Israel, but that’s a separate thing altogether from being pro-Jewish, and it’s mixed up with the credal psychosis of their Christian beliefs about the end-times, so who knows what they think about actual Jews as people. And they have a tendency to play the Arsene Wenger, I-didn’t-see-anything game when their more extreme conservative bedfellows go out and massacre people in synagogues, or carry tiki torches through Charlottesville.

      • max blancke
        Posted December 4, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        I may well have written unclearly, but you reinforced some of the point I was trying to make. At least from the beginning of the 20th century, leftist causes have largely been driven by Jewish efforts. I think it could be argued that the NAACP would have had much less effect as an organization without Jewish support. The same goes for the ACLU and lots of other human rights organizations. The hard left has also had disproportionate Jewish representation.

        So the emerging trend of the left turning against the Jews is troubling and puzzling, at least to me, and it puts organizations like the ADL in a complicated position.

        I have to think that the new left is just very different from the American left we are used to, if they are even left-wing at all.

        An turning point for me in trying to understand the transformation was reading a series of articles from a fairly well-known feminist writer, who regularly went to painful ideological contortions to minimize the threat to women and girls posed by radical Islamists. One case, where a young girl was detained, forcibly disrobed, groped, and urinated upon, while a teenager filmed the attack, she minimized as “not real rape”. And this writer has a long history of defining rape and other sorts of violence very broadly when Caucasian males are accused of the acts.

        I also think the conservative support of Israel is misrepresented. I understand the apocalyptic view, but I have a lot of Israel supporters in my community, and I have spoken about this at length with many of them. Several of them have visited what they see as the “Holy Land”, and came back with a very positive impression of Jews and Israel. There is also quite a bit of outreach between the two communities going on, with Jewish speakers at churches, hosting of exchange students, and joint events.
        I am sure that there are some minority of Christians who take up serpents while waiting for the Revelations end-times prophesy to occur.
        But the ones I know genuinely support Jews and Israel.

  17. Jimbo
    Posted December 4, 2019 at 2:25 am | Permalink

    I think Provost Labeau should go further and warn members of the SSMU that any further overt, discriminatory behavior of this type in direct violation of their own constitution will result in them being permanently removed from student government.


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