For the third time in less than 1-1/2 years a boycott, divestment and sanctions motion is expected to be considered by the McGill University undergraduates’ association.
A new campus group called the McGill BDS Action Network has submitted a motion for consideration at the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) winter general assembly to be held Feb. 22.
The motion calls on SSMU to support any BDS campaigns on campus and to pressure the McGill board of governors to divest from corporations “complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.”
Similar motions were brought before SSMU general assemblies in the fall of 2014 and March of last year.
In the first instance, the motion was shelved indefinitely, and students voted that the same motion could not be brought forward again.
At last year’s winter general assembly, a reworded BDS motion was defeated 276-212 by secret ballot.
In both cases the motions were submitted by Solidary for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR). McGill BDS, which was officially launched on Feb. 4, claims to be a broader-based, “grassroots” campaign.
Among the campus groups it lists as endorsing the motion are the McGill Black Students’ Network, McGill Students for Feminisms, the McGill Syrian Students’ Association, the environmental activist group Divest McGill, and the Union for Gender Empowerment, as well as SPHR.
In contrast to last year, the response from pro-Israel students has been muted.
A spokesperson for Israel on Campus at McGill, which led the coalition of students opposed to the motion at that time, told The CJN Feb. 11 that the group won’t be “leading this campaign’s mobilization,” but some of its members will be involved.
Zina Rakhamilova, a campus co-ordinator with StandWithUs Canada, said that the pro-Israel organization is involved in countering the motion and has “a professional campus person on the ground in Montreal mobilizing the students and planning a strategic campaign with our research staff and campus professionals.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is working with Hillel, the main Jewish campus organization, in trying to encourage students to vote against the motion.
“CIJA Quebec and Hillel Montreal are currently supporting the students in their focused and well-reasoned response to the upcoming BDS anti-Israel motion anticipated on Feb. 22 at McGill University,” Eta Yudin, CIJA’s associate director of Quebec public affairs and Jewish community relations, said in a written statement.
“It is completely unfortunate that this type of motion continues to come up, almost wilfully in spite of the ‘no’ response… last year. It is as if the original movers of the motion are ignoring democracy. At this point, the feeling among the students is ‘enough is enough.’”
Yudin said the BDS movement’s “only real success is in getting headlines, but when it comes to their stated purpose, it is a failure. Canadian and Quebec universities are increasing their exchanges with Israeli counterparts and the number of joint projects or initiatives is at an all-time high.”
Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said Feb. 8 he is encouraging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to denounce the motion. Last year, as Liberal leader, Trudeau tweeted:
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 13, 2015
As far as Housefather, a McGill law graduate, is concerned, there should be a moratorium on BDS motions for 20 years.
McGill BDS said that it has also submitted a report to the university board of governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility on why McGill should relinquish its holdings in four specific corporations said to be profiting from the occupation or the expansion of the settlements.
They are G4S, a British security services company; L-3 Communications, an American surveillance and reconnaissance provider; the Israeli Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank; and the U.S.-based global real estate broker Re/Max.
McGill BDS scheduled several campus events before the Feb. 22 general assembly to raise awareness of its cause, including a talk by Chicago Rabbi Michael Davis of Jewish Voices for Peace.