HRC Campus Media Fellow Published In The Quid Novi, The McGill Law Student Paper

On April 4, 2023, one of our media fellows, Samuel Benzaquen, and the McGill JLSA (Jewish Law Students’ Association) Executive was published in the Quid Novi, the McGill Law Student paper (pages 6-7) on recent antisemitic incidents at McGill University over the past month, calling on his peers to take action and support the Jewish community.

Standing United Against Antisemitism On Campus

Over the past two weeks, some disturbing incidents of antisemitism have come to our attention and we feel that the time is right to speak out. We want to start by reiterating our support for any students impacted by these events. The Jewish commitment to Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, includes a commitment to social justice. This is at the core of our values as Jewish law students and as the leaders of the JLSA. We hope that raising awareness among McGill Law students is the first step in ensuring the ongoing safety and security of Jewish students on campus. 

The first incident which we would like to bring to light occurred on March 23rd, at the LSA’s Leprechaun Lap event. Several people had swastikas unknowingly drawn on their shirts. In response, the LSA and JLSA released a joint statement condemning the behaviour and promising a full investigation. We are grateful to the LSA members who acted promptly to address the situation. The concerning nature of this incident is furthered when placed in the context of a growing wave of antisemitism.

Late last year, Kanye West’s tirade against Jews on social media platforms, including Twitter, rocked our community. West perpetuated numerous hateful tropes about the Jewish community, which had a particular meaningful impact given his large network of followers. In particular, his promise to go “Death Con 3” on Jews brought up sensitive emotions against a backdrop of centuries of historical calls to genocide our people. His actions, though, did not occur in isolation. Just last year, Jews were once again named the number one target of hate crimes in Canada and the US. If there is one lesson we hope you can draw from this, it is that being a strong advocate for the Jewish community is more important now than ever before. This means calling out Kanye and others who seek to harm our community with their words and their actions.  

As antisemitism continues to rise, we have begun to realise that our campus is not immune.  During the month of March alone, we witnessed the harm that can be done to Jewish students. While legitimate criticism of the State of Israel is fair game, some events have become a means to demonise the state and spread hatred against Jewish communities. For example, at a pro-Palestine protest on March 24, students were heard chanting “there is only one solution, intifada revolution”. For many Jews and Israelis, the Intifada (uprising in Arabic) is a painful reminder of multiple waves of violent attacks against Israeli civilians. To be clear, we are not talking about attacks against the Israeli military, but about innocent civilians, regular people going about their daily life until they are on a bus that explodes, or stabbed without warning, or run over by automobiles. Scores of Jews have died in this manner, and countless more injured. This is what is being called for as the “only solution”. Calls for violence against civilians such as this are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated on campus. 

Furthermore, it has come to our attention recently that a Jewish student was rebuffed when trying  to publish an opinion piece in the McGill Tribune. The piece was entitled “Queer McGill is not a safe space for Jews” and described how Queer McGill told her to censor her views about Zionism. A copy of the op-ed can be found via the QR code below and we strongly encourage you all to have a look. 

In response to the submission of this article, the opinion editors, Chloé Kichenane and Kareem Abuali, stated that the “article doesn’t align with our values as a paper. We’re not going to be able to publish it.”

The values that were referred to are part of a policy of anti-Zionism, including arguing that Zionism is a “settler-colonial ideology”. This too constitutes the perpetuation of an antisemitic trope against the Jewish people, namely that we are not indigenous to the Land of Israel (and thus “settler-colonialists.”) To be clear, Zionism is a movement dating back thousands of years, calling for the re-establishment of a Jewish national home in our ancestral, indigenous homeland. This belief does not mean that other people, notably Palestinians, could not live in peace and harmony together with Jews, as many Arab-Israelis do every single day. Being anti-Zionist means that the Tribune does not believe Jews deserve the same rights as other indigenous peoples. Furthermore, the habit of singling out Israel for exclusion from public spheres perpetuates an antisemitic double-standard, which holds Jews to an unfair higher standard that other groups are not asked to abide by. 

We unequivocally condemn the Tribune’s actions as they stifle debate and free expression on our campus. Opinion pieces should be just that: opinions. Jewish students must be able to have a voice on campus, and a student newspaper should not be censoring students simply because they do not agree with their political views. 

Antisemitism continues to grow stronger both in society and on campus. We must all take a stand and support the Jewish community in our fight against antisemitism.


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