By opposing nonviolent BDS, McGill and Canadian government put themselves on wrong side of history

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Last month, the Canadian House of Commons voted to condemn the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS, even as the McGill students society voted to ratify the measure. Subsequently, the student initiative failed an online ratification vote by 57 to 43 percent (2819 to 2119). After that, McGill University Principal Suzanne Fortier issued a statement of adamant opposition to BDS. We have already run one letter to Fortier objecting to her characterizations of BDS from linguistics scholars who had visited Gaza. The following letter is from McGill professors.

As McGill professors committed to justice and equity, we strongly disagree with Principal Suzanne Fortier’s official response on behalf of the university administration to the recent Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) motion in support of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and the subsequent on-line process which failed to ratify this vote. Her email response, sent to all McGill students and faculty, came moments after the results of the on-line process were announced, and echoed the disappointing and ill-informed motion passed by the Canadian Parliament in condemning the growing BDS movement. For Principal Fortier to denounce a movement defending the rights of Palestinians against those who are oppressing them is in fact what “flies in the face of tolerance and respect”—not the BDS movement itself. The call for BDS, drawing upon lessons learned from earlier international movements against apartheid South Africa, indeed urges universities to end institutional ties with institutions funded and sponsored by the Israeli state, and which are complicit in the Occupation and violations of international law. The BDS movement is a measured, non-violent and principled civil society response to life under occupation and colonialism when a people’s basic rights are violated and denied.

Students voting for BDS at McGill University (Photo: Noah Sutton / McGill Tribune)

Students voting for BDS at McGill University (Photo: Noah Sutton / McGill Tribune)

The BDS call demands “tolerance and respect” for Palestinians–something that they have been denied by the state of Israel. It is precisely because Palestinians are not afforded the same rights as other peoples that BDS is necessary. Palestinians do not have equal rights to education, and are regularly denied their academic freedom. But they are also denied freedom of movement, freedom of association, and even their lives. “Freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse”, which are the core principles of McGill University as stated by Suzanne Fortier, are precisely what Palestinians are asking for with this call.

If these core principles do indeed guide the McGill community, it is our responsibility to support a grassroots movement initiated by the vast majority of Palestinian civil society. The demands of the BDS movement are simple. Israel should comply with international law by: (1) ending its occupation and colonization of Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; (2) recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. When Israel complies with international law in these ways, there will be no more need for BDS.

Our mission as educators is to advance learning, to create and disseminate knowledge by offering our students the best possible education. We believe that upholding the highest international standards in teaching, research and scholarship, as well as service to local and international communities, means standing up for what is right when called upon to do so–locally, by supporting students who are working for justice for Palestine, and internationally, by responding to the call made by Palestinian civil society.

While we respect the freedom of expression of all members of our community, including the right of Principal Suzanne Fortier to publicly condemn the BDS movement, we resolve to steadfastly continue to support BDS and the work of our students at McGill who will carry on and continue to build this struggle. In this case, the McGill administration, like the Canadian government, is on the wrong side of history. The Canadian Parliament’s motion on BDS does not act in our name. As McGill professors, we also declare now and will continue to state that if this is the McGill Administration’s response to the BDS movement, it also does not act in our name.

If you are a McGill professor and would like to add your name to this letter, please email: [email protected]

Signed,

Malek Abisaab, Associate Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Rula Jurdi Abisaab , Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies

Diana Allan , Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology and the Institute for the Study of International Development

Alia Al-Saji, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy

Isabelle Arseneau, professeure agrégée, département de langue et littérature françaises

Jodie Beck , Course Lecturer, Department of East Asian Studies

Arnaud Bernadet , professeur agrégé, département de langue et littérature françaises

Lara Braitstein, Associate Professor, Faculty of Religious Studies

Brian Bergstrom , Visiting Professor, Department of East Asian Studies

Curtis Brown , Faculty Lecturer, Department of English

Mary Bunch , Faculty Lecturer, Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies

Michelle Cho , Korea Foundation Assistant Professor, Department of East Asian Studies

Aziz Choudry , Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Social Movement Learning and Knowledge Production, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Barry Eidlin , Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Shanon Fitzpatrick, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Allan Greer , Professor and Canada Research Chair in Colonial North America,

Department of History and Classical Studies

Jill Hanley , Associate Professor, McGill School of Social Work

Michelle Hartman , Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies

Adrienne Hurley , Associate Professor, Department of East Asian Studies

Ahmed F. Ibrahim, Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies

Steven Jordan , Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Pasha M. Khan , Assistant Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies

Thomas Lamarre , James McGill Professor in East Asian Studies and Associate in Communications Studies

Catherine Leclerc , professeure agrégée, département de langue et littérature françaises

Andrée Lévesque , Professor Emerita, History Department

Abby Lippman , Professor Emerita – Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health

Margaret Lock , Marjorie Bronfman Professor Emerita, Department of Social Studies of Medicine

Laura Madokoro , Assistant Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Setrag Manoukian , Associate Professor, Institute of Islamic Studies and Department of Anthropology

Gregory M. Mikkelson , Associate professor, Department of Philosophy

Charmaine A. Nelson , Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art History and Communication Studies

Naomi Nichols , Assistant Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Máire Noonan , Course Lecturer & Research Assistant, Department of Linguistics

Kristin Norget , Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

Anthony Paré , Professor Emeritus, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Laila Parsons, Associate Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Jarrett Rudy , Associate Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Jessica Ruglis, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology

Mela Sarkar , Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Richard Shearmur , Professor, McGill School of Urban Planning

Jon Soske , Assistant Professor, Department of History and Classical Studies

Maria Theresia Starzmann , Assistant Professor, Anthropology Department

Gavin Walker , Assistant Professor, History & Classical Studies and East Asian Studies

Robert Wisnovsky , Professor and James McGill Chair, Institute of Islamic Studies

Brian J. Young , Professor Emeritus, Department of History

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4 Responses

  1. Forrest
    March 13, 2016, 11:02 pm

    As a proud McGill alumnus, and supporter of human rights I was ashamed when my Alma Mater failed to endorse the BDS movement geared toward restoring the human rights of the long suffering Palestinian people. Among its many egregious violations of International Law is Israel’s continued seizure of Palestinian land to build Jewish only settlements. Our governments lack the political will to take a stand against the well organized and well-funded Israeli Lobby. If there is to be any justice, it must take place outside of our governments as it did in South Africa.
    Thanks for having the courage and moral fiber to take a stand for human rights—it makes me proud all over again!
    Forrest J Cioppa MDCM ‘62

  2. Kay24
    March 14, 2016, 7:57 am

    When it comes to BDS the zionists are showing their hypocrisy again:

    http://www.juancole.com/2016/03/hypocrisy-israels-bds-of-palestinian-companies.html

    They whine when something hurts them, but turn around and do the same to those they occupy.

  3. eljay
    March 14, 2016, 8:19 am

    People who selectively oppose the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and equality are hateful, immoral and hypocritical.

    Zio-supremacists, who believe that people who choose to hold a religion-based identity of “Jewish” are entitled…
    – to a religion-supremacist state in as much as possible of Palestine; and
    – to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them,
    …are one such group of people.

  4. lysias
    March 15, 2016, 10:10 am

    I complained that an earlier McGill petition posted on this site was not signed by any McGill professors. I’m glad to see so many signed this one.

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