Jewish Orgs Outraged After McGill Says Removal of Jewish Student From Government Not Motivated by Anti-Semitism

'It is simply inexplicable how such a conclusion could be reached'

McGill / Wikimedia Commons
February 8, 2018

Canadian Jewish organizations expressed disappointment after a McGill University report found that the removal of a Jewish student from student government was anti-Israel, but not anti-Jewish, calling it a missed opportunity for the university to reckon with its culture of anti-Jewish hostility.

The report by former Student Ombudsperson Spencer Boudreau, released Tuesday, found that an October vote by student government (SSMU) officials not to ratify three board members, including Jewish student Noah Lew, was not motivated by anti-Semitism.

Instead, it was "Lew's affiliation with Jewish organizations that are clearly supportive of the State of Israel," and his opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, that were the reason for him being kicked off of the board.

"It is simply inexplicable how such a conclusion could be reached when the group leading the charge even admitted and apologized for the anti-Semitic tropes used leading up to the campaign," said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, adding that "this report may well serve to deepen the divisive and poisoned atmosphere on campus."

B'nai Brith Canada said McGill's investigation failed to take into account important campus context, such as a policy by the student paper banning publication of pro-Israel content. B'nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn called the report a "whitewash."

Lew had been one of the few vocal supporters of a decision overturning a pro-BDS vote in SSMU as discriminatory. The other two representatives voted out in October were also vocally in favor of that decision.

The October vote has since been overturned as unconstitutional and all three candidates were reinstated January by a student-wide vote.

In interviews, Boudreau wrote that SSMU representatives were emphatically pro-BDS, and maintained their gripe was with Lew's "support for Israel."

Ahead of the vote, Lew and two other Jewish student leaders had been targeted on social media by a pro-BDS student coalition called Democratize SSMU, which attempted to discredit their leadership activities due to their ties to the Jewish community.

Involved in that effort was a former SSMU representative who had encouraged students to "punch a Zionist."

The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism, adopted by the Canadian government, includes denying Israel's right to exist or seeking its destruction—ends commonly pursued by BDS activists.

McGill's report, commissioned by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Suzanne Fortier, used a different definition of anti-Semitism that does not include the demonizing of Israel.