There is an old philosophical question that asks, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
The McGill Daily, a student newspaper at McGill University in Montreal, could very well prompt another version of that question: “If there is an anti-Israel event at McGill University and it’s not covered by The McGill Daily, did it ever take place?”
Provoking that question was an article published by the newspaper on April 3, written by Maya Pack entitled: “SPHR Holds Rally for Montreal’s Israeli Apartheid Week,” covering the actions of a local anti-Israel student club, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), and its recent involvement in “Israel Apartheid Week” programming in Montreal.
As reported by Pack, during a rally held on Friday, March 24 protesting “the university’s financial and academic ties to Israel,” unnamed speakers from SPHR and other groups railed against a number of areas of collaboration between McGill University and Israel, including a planned collaboration between McGill University and Tel Aviv University, as well as the existence of the Sylvan Adams Sports Science Institute (SASSI) at McGill University, founded by Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams.
Pack’s article – which was little more than a stenography of the March 24 anti-Israel rally – quoted one unnamed speaker from SPHR McGill as decrying the SASSI as being a “highly politicized attempt to systemically normalize colonial Zionist institutions” and an example of “’sportswashing’ – the practice of an individual, company, or government funding or organizing sports to improve their reputation.”
Such assertions are meaningless gobbledygook. Firstly, Sylvan Adams himself has refuted allegations that he’s engaging in “sportwashing” saying his sports initiatives look to build lasting bonds of coexistence and understanding. Furthermore, Israel is not a colonial state by any stretch; the Zionist movement, while only originating in the 1800s, is merely a more modern manifestation of the ancient Jewish hope for Jewish self-determination in the Jewish People’s ancient homeland, the Land of Israel.
Today, Israel, the Jewish State, is home to roughly half the world’s Jews, who walk in the footsteps of their ancestors from thousands of years ago. To call the modern state of Israel “colonial” is to eviscerate the word of all meaning.
Later in the article, Pack quoted one unnamed speaker who implored attendees at the rally to “ask ourselves what allowed the occupation […] to enact this violence from 1948 to 2023 with complete impunity.”
This statement is extremely telling about the true nature of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
While defenders of the BDS campaign often claim that the movement is simply aimed at pressuring Israel to change its policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, the ugly truth is that at its core, it is aimed at the destruction of the State of Israel.
As the speaker referred to the “occupation” beginning in 1948, it’s clear that to their organization, Israel’s alleged crime of “occupation” did not begin in 1967, following the Six Day War, when Israel took possession of eastern Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria (“West Bank”) and other lands following a defensive war. Rather, according to the speaker, Israel’s supposed crimes began in 1948, with its very existence as a modern state, following its independence from the United Kingdom. In other words, according to this speaker, Israel has no right to exist.
As reported by Pack in her de facto advertisement for “Israel Apartheid Week”, one “SPHR representative” encouraged attendees to learn more about the “genocide of Palestinians,” opining that it’s “really not” a complicated issue.
On that, the SPHR representative is correct. On the issue of the “genocide of Palestinians,” the issue isn’t complicated at all, because it’s pure fabrication.
There has never been a “genocide” of Palestinians by Israel. While anti-Israel activists refer to Israel’s independence in 1948 as “the nakba,” or “the catastrophe,” the population of Palestinians living in Israel and the Palestinian territories has grown from roughly 1.4 million in 1948 to nearly seven million – an increase of five-fold, according to official Palestinian Authority (PA) data.
Throughout the article, Pack failed to challenge or contextualize claims made by anti-Israel activists, including allegations that Israel committed genocide, is a colonist enterprise, or that its very creation is an occupation.
This article is hardly the first time that The McGill Daily has breathlessly reported on the activities of local anti-Israel groups, having done so in the past with other rallies and “BDS Week” events.
The McGill Daily’s history of anti-Israel animus goes further, having stood by its discriminatory policy of banning pro-Israel Zionist voices from its pages until being forced to backtrack under pressure from the university’s administration.
The McGill Daily would better serve their student readers by asking questions and challenging the claims made by organizers of “Israel Apartheid Week,” rather than merely acting as unofficial stenographers of the proceedings.