Stu­dent union won’t oust ‘punch a Zion­ist’ tweeter

The Canadian Jewish News (Montreal) - - News - JAN­ICE ARNOLD

Jewish groups and pro-is­rael stu­dents have de­plored a Mcgill Univer­sity stu­dent union body’s de­ci­sion not to re­move a mem­ber who tweeted “punch a Zion­ist to­day.”

On Feb. 13, the board of di­rec­tors of the Stu­dents’ So­ci­ety of Mcgill Univer­sity (SSMU) de­feated a mo­tion to im­peach Igor Sadikov by a vote of five against, four in favour and one ab­sten­tion.

On Feb. 6, Sadikov posted on his per­sonal Twit­ter ac­count “punch a zion­ist to­day.” It was deleted on Feb. 9 af­ter pro-is­rael stu­dents, as well as B’nai Brith Canada and the Cen­tre for Is­rael and Jewish Af­fairs (CIJA) brought its ex­is­tence to wide at­ten­tion and con­demned the tweet as hate­ful and in­cit­ing vi­o­lence.

Both or­ga­ni­za­tions and the stu­dents, no­tably those as­so­ci­ated with the group Is­rael on Cam­pus, called for Sadikov’s res­ig­na­tion from all stu­dent lead­er­ship posts. In ad­di­tion to be­ing a SSMU board mem­ber, the third-year math­e­mat­ics and po­lit­i­cal science stu­dent sits on the SSMU Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Arts Un­der­grad­u­ate So­ci­ety (AUS), and chairs a num­ber of com­mit­tees.

He is also a for­mer news edi­tor of the stu­dent pub­li­ca­tion the Mcgill Daily and writes fre­quently for it, of­ten crit­i­cally of Is­rael.

Sadikov is­sued a qual­i­fied apol­ogy af­ter delet­ing the tweet, but has re­fused to step down and said he will let the SSMU process fol­low its course.

On Feb. 11, the SSMU ex­ec­u­tive – in its first pub­lic pro­nounce­ment on the mat­ter – is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing all “phys­i­cal, emo­tional, and in­sti­tu­tional vi­o­lence” and af­firm­ing that it does “not con­done racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion, or prej­u­dice in any form.” The ex­ec­u­tive said it re­grets that some stu­dents may have “felt per­son­ally at­tacked or un­safe” due to the tweet or to the stormy dis­cus­sion of the mat­ter at a Feb. 9 meet­ing of the SSMU Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, a broader-based elected body.

At that meet­ing the ques­tion of Sadikov was dis­cussed heat­edly, but no mo­tion was adopted. The coun­cil is sched­uled to next con­vene on Feb. 23.

Coun­cil mem­ber Jas­mine Se­gal, who iden­ti­fied her­self as Zion­ist and con­demned the tweet as hate­ful at the night of Feb. 9 meet­ing, said after­ward that she felt she was the tar­get of hos­til­ity from anti-is­rael stu­dents. She sought an apol­ogy from the SSMU lead­er­ship and was dis­ap­pointed they did not de­fend her at the time.

Ac­cord­ing to a Mcgill Daily re­port, Laura Khoury, a stu­dent of Pales­tinian ori­gin, charged that Zion­ists serv­ing on the coun­cil made her feel “un­safe”

In its Feb. 11 state­ment the SSMU ex­ec­u­tive apol­o­gized if any coun­cil mem­ber felt un­able to par­tic­i­pate as an equal and vowed to bet­ter mod­er­ate dis­cus­sion on “this emo­tional and con­tentious is­sue re­volv­ing around dif­fer­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tions of his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural con­texts.”

The AUS has back­tracked some­what on its for­mal re­quest for Sadikov’s res­ig­na­tion made on Feb. 9. On Feb. 10, the day af­ter the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil meet­ing, its ex­ec­u­tive posted on the group’s Face­book page that its ear­lier state­ment “clearly res­onated with po­lit­i­cal bias” which is not in keep­ing with SSMU’S equity pol­icy. The AUS stated it will from now be in step with the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil on this mat­ter.

At the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil meet­ing, which lasted more than six hours, Sadikov com­plained that he has felt un­safe in the face of a del­uge of con­dem­na­tion. As he did in his ear­lier writ­ten ex­pres­sion of re­gret, he re­ferred to his Jewish her­itage.

“Over the past 24 hours I have re­ceived hun­dreds of in­sults and threats on so­cial me­dia, my per­sonal in­for­ma­tion has been posted on­line, it has been re­ported to var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions and au­thor­i­ties.”

Both the Daily and the Mcgill Tri­bune re­ported that AUS pres­i­dent Becky Gold­berg said that Sadikov has been the tar­get of “a lit­tle bit of a witch­hunt” and that she is con­cerned for his safety.

On Feb. 13, Mcgill prin­ci­pal and vice-chan­cel­lor Suzanne Fortier is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment: “I was shocked to read that Twit­ter post and want to make it clear that the univer­sity con­demns all ex­pres­sions of ha­tred and at­tempts to incite vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing any that have been made in re­ac­tion to the post. The safety and se­cu­rity of our com­mu­nity is our pri­mary con­cern.”

She urged an “environment where dif­fer­ent views and ideas can be de­bated with mu­tual re­spect.”

Fortier, how­ever, said the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion will not in­ter­vene with how the SSMU han­dles the mat­ter. “The SSMU is an in­de­pen­dently in­cor­po­rated or­ga­ni­za­tion, and as such it bears re­spon­si­bil­ity for prop­erly man­ag­ing its in­ter­nal af­fairs ac­cord­ing to its own gov­er­nance pro­ce­dures.”

On Feb. 10, Provost and vice-prin­ci­pal (aca­demic) Christo­pher Man­fredi said con­fi­den­tial dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings were un­der­way to de­ter­mine if Sadikov had vi­o­lated the Code of Stu­dent Con­duct or other univer­sity poli­cies.

Mean­while, both B’nai Brith and CIJA were closely mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and re­it­er­ated their de­mand that Sadikov be re­moved from of­fice.

CIJA was still not sat­is­fied that the SSMU lead­er­ship has “un­equiv­o­cally con­demned” Sadikov’s ac­tions. Its Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil has “failed to un­der­stand the grav­ity of the sit­u­a­tion by us­ing their [Feb. 9] meet­ing to pro­vide Sadikov a plat­form to fur­ther iso­late and in­tim­i­date pro-is­rael stu­dents on cam­pus,” it said.

B’nai Brith says Sadikov ap­pears “un­re­pen­tant,” not­ing that in his apol­ogy on his Face­book page, he “liked” a com­ment from some­one who wrote “I can punch one for you if your po­si­tion does not al­low you.”

“B’nai Brith is dis­gusted by the re­sponse of the SSMU, which al­lowed the es­ca­la­tion of at­tacks against Jewish stu­dents at Mcgill,” stated its CEO, Michael Mostyn.

The SSMU win­ter gen­eral assem­bly, open to all un­der­grad­u­ates, takes place Feb. 20, but at time of writ­ing, Sadikov’s fu­ture was not on the for­mal agenda.

Igor Sadikov

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