Any outcome of the BDS motion will not reflect McGill students’ positions

Editor's note: Ahead of the Students' Society of McGill University (SSMU) Winter General Assembly (GA) the Tribune will be accepting letters on the subject of the "Motion Regarding Support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement." If you would like to join the conversation please send a 400-word letter (any letter above the word limit will not be accepted) to [email protected]. If you would like to join in on the conversation for any of the other motions being debated at the GA, we welcome your opinions as well. We look forward to publishing the McGill community's thoughts on the issue. – Mayaz Alam, Editor-in-Chief


Next Monday, a divided and emotive topic will return to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly (GA) as students debate and vote on a motion proposed by the McGill Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Action Network. Previous debates regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict exposed incompatible views and severed hope for any consensus on the issue. The “No” campaign made it clear in the debates before and during last year’s GA  that many students feel anxious about the BDS movement. On the other hand, the motions' proponents, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), demonstrated that their proposals were passionately driven by the urgent need for a change in the Palestinians’ continually worsening situation. This latest motion—the inevitable consequence of mutual distrust, reciprocated blame, and a lack of compromise on both sides—has no hope of accurately representing the views of McGill students. While a motion that satisfies all students is impossible, a motion that addresses each other's compatible concerns would at least capture the sentiments of more students with a stronger united voice. Instead, this motion ignores the very concerns previously expressed.

The most recent motion threatens to deepen distrust by ignoring many students’ worries regarding the support of the BDS movement at large. Consequently, any decision that comes from next week's motion cannot be reflective of the perspective of the McGill student body. Rather than abandoning reconciliatory efforts and taking an escalated approach, the various stakeholders on campus should find an alternative motion that genuinely considers the legitimate concerns of all sides. These issues include Israel’s security, the focus on Israel as a sole perpetrator, the effects of the BDS movement on all Israelis, as well as the urgent need for change. While a vibrant discussion is necessary to address each other’s concerns and determine which are compatible, opponents to previous motions must be willing to take a stance.

Dialogue alone cannot address the need to take concerted steps to change the situation facing the Palestinian people. Although SSMU’s role in international affairs will always be symbolic, a public condemnation and official statement that represents the views of students can send a powerful message; however, rather than making amendments to last year’s motion to condemn Israeli action in Gaza, the “No” campaign successfully tabled the motion indefinitely. By shutting down debates and claiming the issue is beyond SSMU's jurisdiction, the “No” campaign failed to address the pressing need to have an immediate impact on the worsening conflict. Groups like Israel on Campus (IOC) must realize that not taking a stance on the matter is complicit with the status quo.

If there is any hope for compromise on this issue at McGill, students with genuine concerns regarding the BDS movement must first recognise the urgent need for change. If neither side shows a willingness to change their approach, legitimate concerns will continue to be ignored. Rather than attempting to address each other’s concerns, both sides will attempt to get as many of their voters into the SSMU building as possible, degrading the debate to a tribal numbers game. Just a few votes may change this year's outcome, but whatever happens, the result has no hope of sufficiently representing the views of McGill students.

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