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McGill University rights a wrong

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Back in October, Montreal’s McGill University made headlines when a student alleged he had been targeted by the university’s undergraduate union for being Jewish. Now, the judicial board of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) has ruled on the matter, and the judgment is damning.

As Janice Arnold reports on page 13, on Oct. 23 a pro-BDS students’ group managed to pass a motion dramatically altering SSMU voting procedures, splitting the election of student union board members in 10 (one for each prospective board member) instead of voting on the entire slate. During the ensuing vote, the claimant, Noah Lew, along with two other candidates, Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique, failed to be elected (the other seven were successful). Another McGill student, Jonathan Glustein, quickly brought the matter to the union’s judicial board, arguing the motion to divide the vote contravened the SSMU constitution. The board has now agreed, effectively nullifying the vote.

In the interim, Lew, writing in The CJN, claimed, “I was blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations,” including Hillel and the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee. Critics responded that Lew had not been targeted as a Jew, but rather as a Zionist, and that it was perfectly legitimate for SSMU members to vote against him on political grounds. They should probably stand down at this point – after all, violating the constitution to get your way comprises a clear effort to subvert the political process.

The truth is that the case against Lew was shaky from the beginning. Soon after the union vote, Democratize SSMU, the pro-BDS group that led the campaign against the three students – a group, moreover, that included Igor Sadikov, the McGill student who last year used to his Twitter account to exhort followers to punch Zionists – admitted it had been “insensitive to anti-Semitic tropes of Jewish people as corrupt and politically powerful.” The McGill chapter of Independent Jewish Voices, no supporter of the Zionist crowd, agreed – even as it continued to oppose the three nominees.

To review: those deniers who claimed the vote against Lew and his co-defendants was all about politics are now faced with the reality that pro-BDS and anti-Zionist students cheated to get their way. Meanwhile, the student group that led the campaign against the three students confessed to anti-Semitism, laying waste to the claim that the vote had nothing to do with their Jewishness. Kudos to the judicial board for confirming what many of us have believed all along: Noah Lew, Alexander Scheffel and Josephine Wright O’Manique have been severely wronged.

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Last year, Laura Goldfarb won The CJN Prize for Young Writers for her essay The Walls of Israel. In 2016, the award went to Jasen Sagman for his treatise on Jews expelled from Arab countries. Who will take home this year’s prize – along with $1,800? The Feb. 8 deadline for submissions is fast approaching, so if you or someone you know is thinking about entering an original work on a Jewish theme, better get cracking. Send submissions to thecjnprize@thecjn.ca, and check out CJNews.com for more details.