Jewish student should resign if traveling to Israel, says student gov't

Students’ Society of McGill University calls on board member to resign if she participates in free Hillel trip

MCGILL UNIVERSITY campus in Montreal (photo credit: REUTERS)
MCGILL UNIVERSITY campus in Montreal
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Calls have been made for a Jewish student leader at McGill University to resign from her position in the student government for accepting an invitation to travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories with Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
Jordyn Wright, who represents her peers on the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council and serves on the Society’s Board of Directors and was invited to participate in a trip called “Face-to-Face” that is being offered by Hillel Montreal, said over the weekend that she will travel to Israel and she will not resign from her positions.
She took to Facebook to share her shock and outrage about the actions taken by some members of the SSMU during a meeting last Thursday night.
“As a Jew, my connection to Israel is a core aspect of my identity, and I hoped that this trip would help me to experience Israel through a new lens,” Wright wrote.
The trip is set to leave for Israel at the end of December. Wright made it clear that the trip entails visits to Israel and the Palestinian territories “to meet with politicians, journalists, and locals from all sides to better understand a very nuanced geopolitical conflict.”
She then explained on Facebook that as a result of her decision to participate on the trip, “the SSMU Legislative Council voted to call for my resignation from my positions in student government.
“The SSMU president personally singled me out, and actively encouraged others to attack me,” she added, highlighting that only she was targeted, despite the fact that another non-Jewish councilor is joining her on the trip.
“I am outraged and disgusted, but not surprised,” she said. “This is not the first time that Jewish students at McGill have been bullied out of student government.”
Last week, the Science Executive Committee, which she is also involved in, “voted to give me an ultimatum: either I withdraw from the trip, or I resign from my position. If I do not resign, I am being implicitly threatened with impeachment upon my return.”
Wright explained that “year after year, we have witnessed student leaders at McGill University being targeted as a result of their Jewish and pro-Israel identities” and that this year, “that student is me.”
She emphasized that there is a double standard for anything that involves Israel at McGill.
“In this case, controversy surrounding my participation in Hillel Montreal’s trip resulted in a publicly humiliating witch-hunt, repeated interrogations of my personal life, and me being placed under an intensely unfair microscope,” she said. “SSMU passed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which includes that holding Jews accountable for the actions of the Israeli government or holding Israel to a double standard is antisemitic.”
Wright said she feels that by “scrutinizing only me for participating in a trip to Israel, SSMU is engaging in this kind of antisemitism by assuming I have to be held accountable for what the Israeli government is doing.”
Ending her post, she reiterated: “I will not resign.”
In a video of the hours-long heated debate, which was posted onto YouTube, members of the SSMU Legislative Council openly targeted Wright by name several times while discussing the matter. They discussed a motion called “Free Trip Offers for Student Leaders.” SSMU president Bryan Buraga made several amendments that targeted Wright, and only briefly mentioned the other student leader’s attendance of the trip.
One of the main points discussed included whether or not it was a conflict of interest for her to attend the trip, which later led to a debate on whether Wright would still be able to serve on the SSMU should she go on the trip.
No motion for the second student to resign or be voted out was put forward if he goes on the trip as well.
The SSMU president, among others, named Wright during the student body’s discussion on the matter and said that Wright must decline the trip because of this “apparent conflict of interest.”
Seven hours into the meeting, the discussion on the matter went on to say that “in the event that the director [Wright] does not decline the offer for the aforementioned trip to Israel, the board of directors resolves to vote on the removal of the director by reason of impropriety and delinquency of duties” during their first meeting in early 2020.
The student government further resolved that Wright would be questioned on whether or not she had gone on the trip during this first meeting of 2020.
Buraga claimed that the way in which the councilors were invited was the concern, specifically claiming that they were recruited because of their positions.
“It seems to me to be improper and an apparent conflict of interest in the strict definition of the policy that it cannot be ascertained that these individuals and this individual in the case of councilor Wright could have reasonably received this trip were it not for her position,” he said, noting he believed attending showed “a lack of integrity in our student leaders – in the people going on this trip.”
In response, Rabbi Reuben Poupko, Co-Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Québec said it was “obscene that Wright is being subjected to relentless harassment by the SSMU because of her attachment to Israel.
“Clearly, the SSMU has not learned any lessons from its shameful attempts to impeach another of its councilors because of his Jewish identity in 2017,” Poupko said. “While students engage in campus life to improve [the] quality of life on campus, we are once again witnessing misuse of the student government platform to exclude a Jewish student.”
He stressed that the SSMU’s “persistent abuse of power and displays of hostility toward Jewish and pro-Israel students are clearly not representative of McGill’s mainstream student population.”
Poupko called on McGill students “to reclaim the SSMU from the ideological fringes and rebuild an open, tolerant and inclusive campus environment.”
McGill University's senior director of communications Pierre Boisseau told The Jerusalem Post that "with respect to the situation...involving student leaders enrolling in Hillel Montreal’s Face to Face program to visit Israel and Palestine, McGill University believes that diversity of opinion should be respected at all times."
He said that when McGill students "do not feel safe on our campus because of their identity and/or political beliefs, this becomes problematic and unacceptable given the university’s values for openness, tolerance and respect.
"McGill will unequivocally remain vigilant and steadfast in providing a safe and respectful learning environment, and we will take any proper measure deemed necessary to ensure that all members of our community feel safe, welcomed and respected on our campuses," Boisseau concluded.