To the McGill community,
We are a group of Jewish student leaders who wish to address the allegations of antisemitism in regard to the ongoing debate over the all-expenses-paid “Face to Face” trip to Israel offered by Hillel Montreal. These concerns have been put forward in Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Councillor Jordyn Wright’s Facebook post, an open letter by 11 SSMU councillors published in the Bull & Bear, and an email sent out by Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau. While antisemitism is abhorrent and deeply disturbing, criticisms of the trip and consequences for participating councillors do not constitute antisemitism.
It is important for us to address this considering the circulation and breadth of misinformation that has spread beyond the McGill community regarding the nature of participation in the trip. The trip itself and actions of various McGill organizations have also been portrayed in ways that do not reflect the truth, making these discussions unproductive and difficult to navigate.
We are concerned with the Face to Face trip, specifically because it is being funded by an explicitly anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) political interest group, the Maccabee Task Force, and the ways in which ‘student leaders’ were targeted, as revealed in the trip invitation and explained by The McGill Daily. We do not question the abilities of the students partaking in this trip to critically analyze the information presented to them, but we do question the precedent that doing so sets. Accepting this trip sends the message that propoganistic and opaque attempts to influence our campus are tolerated at McGill.
The number of ‘student leaders’ who were offered this trip is also concerning. It is not just Councillor Wright, but also other SSMU councillors, members of the SSMU Board of Directors (BoD), Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) councillors, and Science Undergraduate Society (SUS) councillors. While multiple students have stated that they are participating in the trip in their personal capacities, they were selected for their influence on campus and we believe that is a considerable conflict of interest, despite the SSMU BoD’s ruling on the matter.
Students must recognize Councillor Wright’s potential conflict of interest as a greater concern than that of other student leaders due to her positions on SSMU Legislative Council as a SUS Representative and on the BoD as a Council Representative. No other student attending the trip is a member of both bodies. However, we also believe that the Nov. 28 SSMU motion should have reprimanded other participating students, not just Councillor Wright. While we do not believe that singling out Councillor Wright was antisemitic, we do believe that it was irresponsible and exclusionary.
We recognize that there are other Jewish students on campus who disagree with our perspectives on the situation, and that precisely is the point of our letter. The Face to Face trip and Israel more generally have been discussed as inherently in the interest of all Jewish individuals, which is not the case. Portraying Jewish people as a monolith with uniform political interests and goals is itself an antisemitic stereotype. The undersigned do not appreciate being spoken for or being used as rhetorical devices to silence concerned students, especially Palestinians. We believe that the allegations of antisemitism are disingenuous, damaging to productive discussion, and purposefully misconstrue the nature of the issue at hand.
We would like to echo the sentiments of the SSMU and AUS statements on this matter reaffirming discontent with the trip itself. We hope that going forward, the debate is focused on the nature and funding of the trip, concerns regarding democratic integrity and transparency, and the precedent this sets for McGill in the future.
Mo Rajji Courtney, RSUS Vice-President (External Affairs)
Abigail Drach, member of Independent Jewish Voices McGill
Adam Gwiazda-Amsel, Vice-President (External Affairs) of SSMU
Maranda Raskin, HSA Vice-President (Internal Affairs)
Madeline Wilson Vice President (University Affairs) of SSMU