Lawsuit Against McGill University Student Activists Supporting Palestine

B'nai Brith Canada announced in a July 27 press communiqué that it "is backing a McGill student's lawsuit against the university for failing to withhold student fees" after what it calls "repeated anti-Israel referendums."[1]

The lawsuit names McGill University, the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU) and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) McGill, which promoted the referendum.

In its press communiqué, B'nai Brith Canada says"the Members of SSMU endorsed a document accusing Israel of engaging in 'settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians,' and committing SSMU to boycotting all entities 'complicit' in this activity, among other measures." B'nai Brith claims, "The document's language was so broad that it would have compelled SSMU to boycott virtually all Jewish clubs and associations on campus."

B'nai Brith adds that it "has previously appealed to the university to withhold funding for the students' society, and despite having received assurances that McGill would do so, it continues to fund the SSMU. To make matters worse, McGill is in violation of its own Memorandum of Understanding, promising to cease funding SSMU in the event it participated in boycotting Israel or affiliated groups."

The communiqué tries to put Judaism and Zionism on the same footing, and to portray as 'anti-Israel' the legitimate resistance fight of Palestinians in the face of the on-going illegal occupation and annexation of their homeland by Israeli forces. Michael Mostyn, CEO of B'nai Brith Canada said, "It's inexplicable that McGill would allow one anti-Israel referendum after another and continue to fund activities which are in violation of its own policies. In doing so, it is participating in creating an antisemitic environment."

To further drive the point home that Canadian students and youth should abandon their just and legitimate fight in support of the Palestinian cause, Sam Goldstein, B'nai Brith Canada's Director of Legal Affairs said: "Let this be an example to all universities across Canada who are allowing this type of activity on campus. B'nai Brith will not stand for this any longer. ... These types of referendums are not restricted to McGill, this is a problem in universities across Canada, and we hope other universities are paying attention."

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The plaintiff -- a Jewish third-year student at McGill -- is being supported exclusively by the Legal Defence Program at B'nai Brith Canada.

"We're standing up for this Jewish student, and through him, all Jewish students on campus who feel unsafe and unwelcome as a result of continued anti-Israel referendums by their student society," said Mostyn.

Interestingly enough the "Jewish third-year student at McGill" is no innocent bystander in this affair. He writes regularly for a local newspaper called The Suburban in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood of Montreal and in March one of his opinion pieces was published in the Jerusalem Post.[2] In it he targets a McGill University professor of Lebanese origin for her stand in defence of the Palestinian cause, equating her support for Palestinians resisting annexation with "attacking peace discourse with Israel." She worked with "Samah Idriss, the late Lebanese writer and anti-Zionist activist" who "also praised Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions on Israel (BDS)." He tried to portray her as "appear[ing] to support terrorism" in an article that the McGill Daily editor refused to publish.

As a U.S. citizen, he is a fellow of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis in America (CAMERA), a U.S. pro-Israeli organization that promotes the narrative that Israel is being unjustly targeted in mass media.[3] CAMERA fellows receive $1,500 and are asked to carry out a number of activities on campus including "monitoring of the campus media, classrooms/professors, and anti-Israel events."[4]

He unsuccessfully led a campaign to dismiss as illegitimate a motion to put the Palestine Solidarity Policy to a referendum open to all undergraduates, which was passed at the SSMU General Assembly in February and subsequently by its Legislative Council.

As a spokesperson for SPHR McGill stated at the Montreal August 10 Rally in support of Gaza, activists are determined to carry on fighting to have the results of the 2022 Winter Referendum on the Palestine Solidarity Policy implemented.

SSMU Referendum Question Winter 2022

Ballot Question: "Do you agree to the SSMU's adoption of the Palestine Solidarity Policy?"

Palestine Solidarity Policy

Background and rationale

The SSMU Constitution states that "the SSMU commits to demonstrating leadership in matters of human rights [and] social justice;"

McGill students have historically campaigned for divestment from institutions or corporations that demonstrate a lack of accountability, ethicality, and respect for the rights and dignity of others;

Palestinian and pro-Palestine students have worked for years to educate their peers about McGill University's complicity in the oppression of Palestinians, while facing serious threats to their safety and other fundamental rights;

McGill University invests in, or engages in close collaboration with several corporations and institutions complicit in an entrenched system of settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians;

This system of settler-colonial apartheid is characterized by a brutal regime of land theft, checkpoints, house demolitions, environmental destruction, deportation, and extrajudicial killings at the hands of soldiers, police, and settlers;

Under this same regime, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to live in ever-worsening conditions under a destructive blockade, where attempts to protest or resist are met with the bullets of snipers, or deadly bombing;

McGill University cut its ties with institutions and corporations complicit in South African apartheid in the 1980s, after concerted student activism;

An ever-growing number of student unions, universities, labour unions, political parties, and religious organizations have called for boycotts or divestment from settler-colonial atrocities against Palestinians, in Canada and around the world;

Action Items

Be it resolved:

The SSMU shall campaign for McGill University's public condemnation of Canary Mission and other surveillance or smear campaigns against Palestinian and pro-Palestine students;

The SSMU shall make at least one public statement each semester, including a statement on Nakba Day, reaffirming the SSMU's solidarity with Palestinian students and with Palestinian liberation from settler-colonial apartheid. Each of these statements shall be authored by the SSMU Palestine Solidarity Committee.

The SSMU shall completely boycott all corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians;

The SSMU shall campaign for McGill University's complete boycott of all corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians;

The SSMU shall completely divest from all corporations complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians;

The SSMU shall campaign for McGill University's complete divestment from all corporations complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians;

The SSMU shall form a Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), composed of at least one SSMU Political Campaign Coordinator (chair), one SSMU executive and at least four members of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR).

In the event of any question, conflict or uncertainty regarding the correct application of the Policy, the Palestine Solidarity Committee shall make a binding decision, by majority vote. This decision shall then be ratified by the student body in the earliest subsequent SSMU referendum.

This Policy shall remain in force for a period of 5 years, starting from the moment of its adoption by the student body.


1. "B'nai Brith Announces Lawsuit Against McGill and its Student Clubs, July 27, 2022".

2. "An anti-Israel professor teaches at McGill -- opinion", Jonah Fried, Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2022

3. "McGill student Jonah Fried sues his university and student union for anti-Israel referendum that was 'discriminatory, biased and antisemitic,'" The Canadian Jewish News, July 29, 2022.

4. "U.S. student, Israel lobby groups behind McGill lawsuit," Yves Engler, Mondoweiss, August 9, 2022.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 8 - August 17, 2022

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