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McGill student society denies claims of anti-Semitism

The Gazette logo The Gazette 3 days ago Christopher Curtis, Montreal Gazette
a bicycle parked on the side of a building: The Student Society of McGill University building. © Dario Ayala The Student Society of McGill University building.

Student executives at McGill University deny claims they singled out and censured a Jewish colleague for accepting a free trip to Israel.

Jordyn Wright was one of three student leaders at McGill to accept an all-expenses paid trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories this winter. The trip is funded by Hillel Montreal and would put students in touch with journalists and politicians to better understand the conflicts and geopolitical forces that shape life in Israel.

But of the three who agreed to go on the trip, Wright was the only subject to a Nov. 28 motion by the Student Society of McGill University to reprimand her should she accept the trip. She says she was targeted because of her Jewish identity, a claim that’s backed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and Montreal-area MNA David Birnbaum.

Executives at SSMU say the story is much more nuanced than that.

Of the two other students who initially accepted the trip, one withdrew before the motion was passed last week. Executives say the student, Adin Chan, was mentioned in an earlier draft of the motion but his name was removed after he withdrew from the trip.

The other student belonged to an organization outside the jurisdiction of SSMU and could therefore not be disciplined by SSMU.

Sanchi Bhalla is a SSMU executive who turned down the trip. She says the offer is a conflict of interest based on monetary gifts.

“We decided not to go on the trip because, in part, we felt uncomfortable accepting a trip of such a high monetary value,” said Bhalla, the SSMU’s vice-president of internal affairs. “It seemed like, you know, there’s no free lunch.”

Madeline Wilson refused to go on the trip because she felt executives would be presented with a biased view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In a statement posted to her Facebook page , Wright says she felt intimidated into refusing the trip and she feels she’s been the target of thinly veiled anti-Semitism. She says it is her right to travel to Israel.

As for the notion of a conflict of interest, Wright wrote about fellow SSMU executives who have pro-Palestinian stickers on their water bottles who aren’t subject to the same scrutiny as her. She says the public nature of the conflict over the trip has caused friends to slander and abandon her.

Wright asked the Montreal Gazette to submit questions to her in writing rather than be interviewed. She did not respond to questions as of this article’s publication.

Hillel Montreal also asked the Montreal Gazette to submit its questions in writing rather than agree to an interview.

David Birnbaum calls the SSMU controversy the latest example of persistent anti-Semitism in our society.

Two years ago, an elected representative of McGill’s art students resigned from his post after tweeting about punching zionists. That same year, the SSMU ratified a motion supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions protest movement, which advocates for economic pressure against Israel over its treatment of Palestinians.

This story will be updated.

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