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

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - JAN­ICE ARNOLD jarnold@thecjn.ca, MON­TREAL

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 an 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 state­ment on the is­sue, said it con­demns all “phys­i­cal, emo­tional, and in­sti­tu­tional vi­o­lence” and af­firm­ing that it does “not con­done racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion, or prej­u­dice in any form.”

The ex­ec­u­tive 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 its lead­ers 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.

On Feb. 13, Mcgill prin­ci­pal and vice-chan­cel­lor Suzanne Fortier said she “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.”

But Fortier said the ad­min­is­tra­tion won’t in­ter­vene in how the SSMU han­dles the mat­ter, be­cause the “SSMU is an in­de­pen­dently in­cor­po­rated or­ga­ni­za­tion.”

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

Mean­while, B’nai Brith and CIJA were closely mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion and re­it­er­ated their de­mand that he be re­moved from of­fice. B’nai Brith said 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."q

Igor Sadikov

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