The McGill Tribune’s latest editorial, “If SSMU Council won’t stand up for campus press, students must,” claims that it is the The McGill Daily’s pro-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) stance against Israel that in part fueled the events at the Nov. 2 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council. However, to frame the opposition to mandating student funding of the Daily Publication Society–the parent organization of both The McGill Daily and Le Délit newspapers–as being primarily about the Daily’s endorsement of BDS misses the point entirely.
It is not about the Daily’s endorsement of BDS per se—everyone should recognize that it is a newspaper’s prerogative to take certain editorial lines. However, a paper claiming the mantle of “free press” should not be permitted to routinely exclude certain voices from publication, thereby invalidating and obscuring them—especially one that asks for funding from all students, but refuses to grant access to free speech to all these students in turn.
Indeed, with regards to Israel, opposition to the Daily stems from the fact that it engages in a wholesale boycott of a considerable segment of campus voices. Specifically, the newspaper “maintains an editorial line of not publishing pieces which promote a Zionist worldview.” This stands in direct contradiction to the Tribune’s call in its latest editorial for “SSMU and students to recognize that it is valuable to have a diversity of voices on campus.”
Given the Tribune’s stated commitment to a “diversity of voices,” it should recognize how students with Zionist viewpoints would bristle at funding a publication like the Daily that preaches diversity and yet systematically excludes their voice from its pages. “Zionist viewpoints” are by no means homogenous, and while reflecting an ethno-religious connection to the physical land, are often highly critical of Israeli state policy and the injustice of the occupation. The Daily pushes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the forefront of campus discussion, but by excluding this diversity of voices, neglects to engage in the debate responsibly and acknowledge all its inherent nuance. It should also recognize the hypocrisy inherent in asking for funding from the entirety of the student body in order to ostensibly serve as its platform, while routinely excluding a viewpoint shared in varying manifestations by a portion of the McGill community.
Furthermore, it is extremely reductive and obfuscatory to refer to a “Zionist worldview”–as the Daily does–as if there is a sole cohesive Zionist agenda. Zionism is a movement with a long history, with different interpretations and ideological bents. A singular “Zionist worldview” cannot be objectively pinned down in any meaningful sense. Putting all diverse Zionist voices in a single oppressive box, and discounting the nuance and difference laden within the term is not good journalism by the Daily. Neither is the systematic exclusion of a group, based on a minimized understanding of a diverse ideological movement, from a conversation it is intimately impacted by.
The extent of the mental gymnastics that must go along with claiming that the SSMU Legislative Council events went against the existence of a fair and balanced press on campus, when one of the publications in question is systematically precluding any sort of actual fair and balanced coverage at all, is palpable. The Daily can go ahead and endorse BDS as a newspaper, but do so without being so insecure about their position that upholding it necessitates such expansive gatekeeping in the form of silencing and outright delegitimization of any dissenting or explanatory voice among their pages.