BDS activists (file)
BDS activists (file)Wikimedia Commons

As the Canadian Parliament passed a resolution to condemn the BDS movement by a vote of 229 -51 and received bipartisan support for the initiative, the picture on McGill campus in Montreal was the exact opposite.

On Monday in a general assembly of the undergraduates association at the university, which has one of the highest Jewish populations of any university in Canada, a motion in support of the BDS movement passed by a margin of 512-357. the vote was carried out in the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU).

The vote followed a lengthy, but orderly debate and both sides presented their cases to the assembly. The vote was conducted by a secret ballot and must be ratified by an online vote of the entire student membership.

This was the third time in less than one and a half years that the SSMU has tried to pass a BDS motion. The last attempt, which occurred in January 2015, was defeated by a total vote of 276-212.

The Canadian Jewish News (CJN) reported that the current motion called on the SSMU to support pro-BDS campaigns through the office of its vice president external and the SSMU president to “lobby” the McGill board of governors in support of BDS campaigns.

The motion demands that McGill University completely divest from companies “profiting from violations of Palestinian human rights” and implement an “investment screen” to prevent future investments in such companies.

The companies specifically mentioned in the motion include: Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, L-3 Communications, US surveillance and reconnaissance company,  and the U.S.-based real estate broker RE/MAX, as all of them have a presence in Israel and all are among McGill’s current holdings.

The motion denounces the “occupation and colonization of all Arab lands captured in 1967,” and calls for the dismantling of Israel’s security barrier which has saved hundreds of lives. The motion further called for the right of return for Palestinians to land in Israel, and full equality for Arab Israelis.

Over 40 students spoke at the GA, and were equally divided on both sides. A motion to end the debate was voted on and was overwhelmingly accepted.

Speakers who were against the motion denounced it as one-sided and unfair in that it singled out Israel in a hypocritical way. The student speakers repeatedly raised concerns that BDS motions cause divisiveness on campus and marginalize Jewish and other students who support Israel. Other students called the motion anti-Semitic and cause for fear among Jewish and Israeli students.

Last year, as Liberal leader, current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau tweeted his disappointment that his alma mater would entertain a BDS motion.

“The BDS movement, like Israeli Apartheid Week, has no place on Canadian campuses. As a @McGillU alum, I’m disappointed.#EnoughIsEnough”

This time around, Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather took to Twitter to urge McGill students to reject the latest gambit.

“To students @McGillU. Please vote NO to BDS on Monday! Join @MarcMillerVM @LevittMichael @DavidLametti@NickWhalenMP and me in opposing BDS.”

Four days prior to the McGill vote, Housefather delivered a lengthy speech in Canadian Parliament denouncing the BDS movement stating that it is “part of a new anti-Semitism that stigmatizes and vilifies Israel…”

Housefather continued and said that BDS campaigns are fomenting “hatred” on campuses and “that is shameful because all students in this country should feel safe when they go to school…”