In the News May 14
74th Anniversary of Al-Nakba – The Catastrophe
Students’ Society of McGill Adopts Palestine Solidarity Policy
On March 21, a Palestine Solidarity Policy was approved by undergraduate students at McGill University in the Winter 2022 Referendum, with a 71 per cent “yes” vote. This marks a significant achievement amidst stepped up promotion of Zionist chauvinism and the criminalization of support for Palestine by the Canadian state and a host of its alleged non-government organizations in recent years.
Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill (SPHR McGill), in a March 28 article explains that the policy mandates the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) “to campaign for McGill University to condemn Canary Mission and other surveillance against Palestinian students, as well as boycott and divest from corporations or institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians. Furthermore, the SSMU will form a Palestine Solidarity Committee, which will be tasked with implementing the policy, and whose decisions will be subject to ratification by the student body via future referenda. The committee will also issue at least one public statement each semester, including a statement on Nakba Day, reaffirming the SSMU’s solidarity with Palestinian students and Palestinian liberation.”
The SSMU is the body which represents the university’s more than 20,000 undergraduates.
SPHR McGill explains the various attempts to block the referendum from proceeding and then blocking the implementation of the policy once it was passed by the students:
“Just before voting commenced on March 14, the SSMU Judicial Board staged a last-ditch attempt to remove the policy from the referendum. Following our swift denunciation of this brazen violation of the democratic process and public outcry, Elections SSMU restored the policy to the ballot and issued a semi-apologetic statement. At this time, the Judicial Board has still not publicly apologized for its disgraceful undermining of student democracy.
“Unfortunately, bodies within the SSMU have frequently engaged in the silencing of Palestinian students. Last year, members of the Board of Directors repeatedly delayed the ratification of the Divest for Human Rights Policy, and later refused to ratify a Nakba Day statement, which had been approved by the SSMU Legislative Council. As for the Judicial Board, its decision to strike down a BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) motion as ‘unconstitutional’ in 2016 struck a devastating blow to free speech and political organizing on campus for many years. The Judicial Board’s more recent attempt to derail the Palestine Solidarity Policy indicates that SSMU officials have not forsaken the temptation to abuse their power.
“We fully expected that the administration, in collaboration with off-campus organizations, would do everything in its power to overturn the democratic voice of the students. It therefore came as no surprise when Deputy Provost Fabrice Labeau hurriedly sent out a mass email demanding that the SSMU overturn the Palestine Solidarity Policy and threatening to terminate the Memorandum of Agreement with SSMU. As justification, he claimed that the policy violates the SSMU Constitution, since it ‘echoes key tenets of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.’ However, the Judicial Board issued three separate rulings in 2021, all of which affirm the constitutionality of political campaigns against corporate or state entities, including BDS-related campaigns.”
In a March 29 editorial, the McGill Tribune pointed out: “Labeau’s statement uses inflammatory buzzwords and harmful misrepresentations of anti-Zionism in an attempt to intimidate those in support of the Palestine Solidarity Policy — and in doing so, it imposes the beliefs of administrators, the Board of Governors, and donors onto students. By branding the policy as contradictory to values of diversity and inclusion, while touting accusations of antisemitism without any real explanation, Labeau’s statement appears to be nothing more than a fear-mongering technique to silence those in opposition to Palestinian liberation and the profit McGill makes from investing in apartheid.
“Rather than diffusing the situation, the administration’s move effectively exacerbates existing on-campus tension by threatening to jeopardize SSMU if they implement the democratically approved policy. The policy makes no mention of religion, yet by referencing antisemitism and Islamophobia, Labeau unnecessarily pits Jewish and Muslim students against each other. Jewish students at McGill who support the policy have even spoken out against the monolithic view that all Jewish people are Zionists.”
TML Daily, posted May 14, 2022.