McGill University Jewish Groups Decry ‘Misleading’ BDS Motion Tying Israel to Uighur Persecution

The Arts Building at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Photo: Edward Bilodeau.

The Jewish community at McGill University spoke out Friday against an “intentionally misleading” divestment motion passed by the Student’s Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council, which includes Israeli companies alongside others it charges with “forced labor and genocide” in China.

The motion, Divest for Human Rights Policy, calls for the school to divest from a list of companies it says “enable and profit from multiple forms of systemic violence, including settler-colonial land theft, environmental destruction, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”

The list includes the real estate company Re/Max and the manufacturer Oshkosh Corporation over their activities in Israel, along with clothing companies like Puma and Foot Locker, which it claims are “complicit” in the genocide of Uighur Muslims in China.

“It is disappointing and deeply offensive that student groups would conflate a two-sided political conflict with a major human rights issue like the Uighur genocide in China to promote an unrelated anti-Israel political agenda, diminishing the call to action for Uyghur justice in the process,” said a Friday statement signed by eight Jewish groups, including Israel on Campus At McGill and Hillel Montreal.

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February 26, 2021 2:56 pm

“It is extremely disheartening that time and time again SSMU is revisiting the same debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to efforts by some to level constant attacks against the Jewish community,” it continued. “These efforts are shameful. We call on SSMU to combat such efforts and focus on prioritizing student wellbeing.”

The statement was also signed by the groups StandWithUs Canada, Chabad at McGill, Jewish Experience, Downtown Montreal
and Challah for Hunger MTL, as well as the McGill Jewish Studies Students’ Association’s Mettannah Jacobson and Georgia Bender.

Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill, which wrote the motion as part of a coalition with other campus groups, did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

The vote during a virtual session of the Legislative Council on Wednesday followed a Feb. 16 vote at the SSMU General Assembly, where it was only approved in an non-binding capacity after attendees left the meeting and dissolved the body’s quorum. The motion’s approval by Legislative Council paves the way for its ratification by the group’s Board of Directors. The SSMU did not immediately respond to an Algemeiner request for comment.

Other companies included in the motion’s call for divestment include the Canadian firm TC Energy Corporation, over the Coastal GasLink pipeline; the defense company Lockheed Martin, over the Saudi Arabia-Yemen conflict; and the department stores Nordstrom’s and Kohl’s, over the alleged use of forced labor in China.


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