The McGill Administration recently demanded that The McGill Daily publish a letter to the editor that critiqued the publication’s definition of Zionism. The letter, written by two Jewish law students, argued that the Daily had defined Zionism in a way that was both inaccurate and malicious. Michael Aarenau, 3L Law and one of the letter’s authors, decided to contact Deputy Provost (Student Life & Learning) Fabrice Labeau after the Daily ignored five attempts at submitting the letter.
“[It is] important to note that in order to reject [the letter], they would have had to actually formally acknowledge it, which they never did because they repeatedly ignored it,” Aarenau wrote in a message to The McGill Tribune. “They finally wrote [to] us […] on Oct. 25 after the provost threatened action against them.”
Josh Shapiro, 3L Law, asked Labeau to compel the Daily to publish his and Aarenau’s letter on Oct. 7.
“[The Daily] has effectively refused to publish our piece,” Shapiro wrote in an email to the Provost. “We believe that we are being ignored due to the content of our letter, in violation of […] the Memorandum of Agreement [(MOA)] between McGill and the Daily.”
The Daily Publication Society (DPS), which manages both the Daily and Le Délit, maintains a MOA with McGill University that allows the two papers to operate on campus. Section 10.2 of the document compels the DPS to publish letters sent by students, even if the letter does not conform with the opinions of the editorial team. After Shapiro sent his email, Labeau met with the chair of the DPS; soon after, the Daily reached out to Shapiro with an offer to publish the letter on Nov. 4.
“On Oct. 22, [the Provost] wrote [to] us [and] we were pleased with his actions,” Shapiro wrote in a message to the Tribune. “[The letter] was not edited. That being said […], the manner in which they published the letter [was undesirable].”
Aarenau took issue with the format in which the letter was published, and the letter was prefaced by a response from the Daily’s editorial board.
“They wrote a response […] which mischaracterized our arguments, defamed our characters, engaged in tokenism, and outright encouraged their readers not to read our letter, apologizing for its existence!” Aarenau wrote.
In print, Aarenau’s letter was opposite a copy of the Daily’s response which was printed in larger font; the letter itself is also hidden from the publication’s home page on their website. The response claims that Labeau had threatened to enter into arbitration with the DPS for breaking their MOA, which would have the potential to jeopardize the future of both publications.
The response also cites the DPS’s Letters Policy, which guides the Daily and Le Délit in publishing letters from students. The policy states that editors have the authority to reject letters whose content is racially or ethnically prejudiced. According to a representative from Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) McGill, the Daily’s response to the letter is justified.
“The Daily was in no way being antisemitic in their initial definition of Zionism nor in their response to the letter,” the IJV McGill representative wrote in an email to the Tribune. “I do agree [with the Daily] that the letter is harmful in the way that it [omits] to the point of gaslighting the systematic oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians crucial to the Zionist project.”
The reprsentative also spoke on how IJV McGill and McGill Students in Solidary for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) both contributed to editing the Daily’s response.
“A member of IJV McGill told The McGill Daily to delete a paragraph that IJV members found lacked nuance in its description of Zionism,” the representative wrote. “They felt [that] it was important to do this because […] some members of IJV McGill [were] concerned that the Daily’s response could provide more fodder for claims that criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism are antisemitic, inspiring backlash for IJV and SPHR and threatening their work on campus.”
Aarenau remains unsatisfied with the Daily’s response and conduct with regards to his letter.
“I don’t know in what universe we allow people to shout over a minority group like this, where they try to [say] to Jews: […] ‘Actually, you’re wrong about what the movement for your own liberation is, let us educate you,” Aarenau wrote. “It’s blasphemous.”
Neither Labeau nor a member of the DPS responded to a request for comment.