Commentary, Opinion

Open Letter from Jewish students on the Palestinian Solidarity Policy

To the McGill Community, Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau, and the McGill Administration,

As a group of Jewish students within the McGill community, we are writing to reaffirm our support for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Palestine Solidarity Policy in the wake of Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau’s response to its approval. 

On March 24, Labeau threatened to terminate the university’s Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU in objection to the Palestine Solidarity Policy passed less than 24 hours prior. The policy passed with an overwhelming majority of 71 per cent support during the SSMU’s Winter 2022 referendum, along with several other new fees. It marks a historic win for Palestinian students and their allies at McGill. For two decades, Palestinian students at McGill have worked tirelessly to educate their peers about the complicity of this institution in settler-colonial apartheid. Time and time again, their activism has been met with censorship, doxxing, and repression from an openly hostile administration.

In his letter, Deputy Provost Labeau claims that the policy causes “division” within our campus community and violates the university’s principles of inclusion, diversity, and respect. This assertion is blatantly false. The policy is a project of solidarity and community, promoting the well-being of Palestinian students on campus and defending of Palestinian human rights abroad. We see the defense of human rights—and effectively the defense of this motion––as an enactment of our Jewish values. 

We, as Jewish McGillians, do not feel “unwelcome or rejected” because of actions like the Palestine Solidarity Policy. We believe that this policy is a necessary, important step in the fight against McGill’s complicity in the violence of colonialism, racism, imperialism, militarism, and capitalism—from Turtle Island to Palestine.

We emphasize that this policy was passed democratically and with a supermajority. This win is a demonstration of the popular power of students that has been built over time and will not be deterred by threats to democratic decision-making. To deny the legitimacy of the motion is to deny the will of the student body. We challenge the Deputy Provost’s portrayal of deep divisions among the campus community over initiatives for human rights. The most significant division on campus that we see—as has also been emphasized by the last three weeks of #OccupyMcGill actions—is the long standing divide between the actions of the administration and the voice of the student body.

We are concerned that Deputy Provost Labeau brought up the upcoming initiative to prevent antisemitism and Islamophobia as a way of discrediting this democratic motion. Conflating criticism of the settler-colonial state of Israel with antisemitism is both incorrect and a dangerous distraction from real instances of antisemitism.

Some Jewish organizations on McGill campus and beyond have condemned the policy, but these organizations do not represent all of the Jews in the McGill community, and do not have the right to speak for all of us. There is a significant diversity of perspectives within the Jewish community, as within any community. For many years, there has been a strong Jewish presence at McGill in solidarity with Palestinian human rights. 

So, to Jewish students on campus, we want to remind you that your Jewishness and solidarity with Palestinian human rights are not mutually exclusive. Rather, these two truths can, and should, be complementary. And to Palestinian students, please know that we are with you now as firmly than ever. We will always continue to fight for the future we believe in: One with justice, freedom, and dignity for all, which includes a free Palestine as well as the democratization of this campus.

If you are a Jewish student at McGill and would like to anonymously sign in support of this open letter, please use this form: https://forms.gle/nWbVnCKsFfrg5kMg6 

Sincerely, 

Jewish Members of the McGill Community in Support of the Palestine Solidarity Policy

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