Press releases

Press Release – Nov 8, 2016

Thank you to everyone who joined the action today on Lower Field. We are continuously inspired by those who show their solidarity with us.

Today, Chabad at McGill organized an event featuring a group called “Artists 4 Israel” from 12 to 3 pm on Lower Field. The artists spray painted Israeli and Canadian flags side by side on a plywood structure, along with the word “peace” written in Hebrew and English. The event was sponsored by Hasbara Fellowships, an organization founded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs that brings students to Israel and trains them to be effective pro-Israel advocates on college campuses, as well as StandWithUs Canada, a pro-Israel organization that claims to promote peace through education. Another event sponsor was Size Doesn’t Matter Israel – a campaign that “[highlights] the multitude of Israel’s accomplishments and contributions in a new, fun and attractive way.”

We and our allies held banners and signs in front of the structure to reject the normalizing discourse that the event promoted. The organizers of the event came up to us time and time again to tell us that the event was not political, and asked us to leave. We refused, as it is dishonest and dangerous for Israel to be discussed without acknowledging the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli regime on a daily basis, a regime which also refuses to abide by widely accepted international laws urging it to end the occupation and grant the right of return to all Palestinian refugees.

Events like today’s contribute to the normalization of the Israeli occupation – that is, making the settler-colonial state of Israel and its practices seem normal and acceptable. This is done in a number of ways. One common narrative that the event upheld is that Palestine and Israel are on equal footing, and have equal power in negotiation, whereas in reality Israel occupies Palestine and controls its borders, water, and land. They do not have equal power.

The event also aimed to advertise a false image of Israel as a “diverse” country where everyone lives equally. However, Arabs residing within Israel are formally discriminated against by the Israeli government – for example, every Jewish person has the ability to become a citizen, whereas it is incredibly difficult for Palestinians, who were forced to leave their land, to return and become citizens. In addition, Palestinian Bedouin communities in the Naqab (Negev) desert have had their villages demolished by Israel countless times.

The event also blatantly partook in pinkwashing, the practice of focusing on a country’s LGBTQ rights record to shift the focus away from its human rights violations. Israel uses this tactic to promote an image of itself as progressive, a “gay haven” in the Middle East. In reality the Israeli occupation is enforced on all Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and of course affects queer Palestinians.

What is needed is not more normalization and propaganda but justice. Justice for the Palestinians who have to endure the Israeli occupation every day, and justice for Palestinian refugees. If Israel wants peace, it should dismantle the Apartheid Wall, end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, grant full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and abide by international law by granting refugees the right of return.

McGill BDS Action Network

November 8, 2016

Press Release – May 30, 2016

On February 22, 2016, the motion put forward by the McGill BDS Action Network in support of BDS campaigns passed at the SSMU Winter General Assembly (58% in favour, of the 883 students present). The motion was subsequently nullified on February 27 in the online ratification process (57% against, of the ~5300 votes cast). Campaigning for or against the motion during the online ratification period was explicitly forbidden by SSMU, but both off-campus organizations and McGill clubs and individual students disregarded this and campaigned against the motion by spreading misinformation about the motion’s content and encouraging students to vote against it. Students and external organizations made use of telethon campaigns and emails in order to influence the outcome of the vote (campaign violations are detailed in the McGill BDS Action Network’s Press Release from February 26, 2016). After the motion was nullified, several students on behalf of McGill BDS petitioned the Judicial Board of SSMU, citing extensive electoral infractions that violated SSMU’s Internal Regulations as well as the fairness of the ratification process.

Today, SSMU sent out a press release explaining that as a result of the Judicial Board Petition, the SSMU Board of Directors “has decided not to recognize the online ratification results for that individual motion” as valid, and has decided not to hold another online vote due to logistical reasons. The Board has also removed the regulation prohibiting campaigning for future GA ratifications. We are glad that the Judicial Board recognized the electoral infractions, but it is frustrating that the many hours of hard work put in by organizers and endorsing groups was blatantly disrespected by those who campaigned against the motion.

We would like to thank all the McGill students that respected the integrity of our student democracy. While the motion was not ratified, we view the last six months as a success. We are inspired by the conversations surrounding BDS that have started at every level of campus life, and the amount of support we have received from McGill students and faculty, and individuals and organizations external to McGill.

McGill BDS Action Network
May 30, 2016

SSMU Press Release

Press Release – Feb 26, 2016

The McGill BDS Action Network would like to strongly condemn active campaigning efforts and tactics used by various students, professors, and student groups in opposition to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions motion that is currently being voted on in online ratification. As stipulated in SSMU Article 6.4 of IR-05 (General Assembly – Online Ratification – Campaigning) of the Internal Regulations of the Presidential Portfolio, “Campaigning is not permitted during the period for online ratification.”

Campaigning includes persuading or intimidating people to vote a certain way, rather than reminding and informing students of their democratic right to vote during the online ratification period. It is forbidden to explicitly direct students how to vote, or give reasons for which they should cast their vote a certain way. We have documented numerous violations of this rule by the “No campaign,” as well as by individuals and organizations external to McGill (see screenshots below).

Groups in opposition to the BDS motion have used exterior organizations, rather than their campus affiliates, to disseminate misinformation regarding the motion’s intent, form, and impact. In doing so, these external groups have disseminated content previously disseminated by the “No campaign” in the days and weeks prior the GA last Monday (see below). Moreover, external groups have been selectively calling students in catered telethons by profiling their identity, misinforming students regarding how the motion actually reads, and telling students what their vote should be. Hillel International called a Jewish McGill BDS Action Network member and asking them whether they have voted when that member had never given Hillel their phone number.

McGill students are fully capable of making informed decisions through their own research and lived experiences, and do not need paternalistic instructions from professors, community organizers, or political figures who seek to influence the politics of the McGill undergraduate student body. These efforts have alienated students on campus that have a different perspective on the motion than their religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, or any other defining characteristic may purportedly stipulate. These assumptions create an environment of social pressure and verbal intimidation that compels students to vote in a manner that they may disagree with, but feel unable to publicly oppose.

Moreover, we would like to publicly recognize the ongoing asymmetry in resources leveraged to affect the outcome of the vote. Groups in opposition to this motion have employed professional public relations teams both to sway public opinion in an inauthentic manner and to mobilize votes. Paid advertisement have been taken out, urging the McGill population to vote against the motion (see below). This has occurred through slanderous rhetoric that amounts to nothing less than fear mongering among our student body, and has contributed to the climate of fear that students have reported to be a result of this motion.

Additionally, fraudulent Reddit and Instagram accounts have been created with the McGill BDS Action Network’s name and logo (see screenshots below). Our campaign has no association with these accounts and they do not represent how we operate. McGill BDS has not actively campaigned during the ratification period and these fake accounts seek to invalidate the clean campaign we are running. Members of the McGill BDS Action Network have been working tirelessly to counteract these illegal campaign tactics over the past week, but we recognize that we do not have the resources to sufficiently and effectively do so.

This statement is not intended to accuse or assign blame to any single group or individual for all these actions, but to recognize that these events have occurred. Each violation contributes to the misinformation and fear surrounding this motion and ultimately violates the spirit of the democratic vote. We urge all students, professors, campus organizations, and organizations external to McGill to respect the bylaws of our student society and not attempt to stifle the democratic process.

McGill BDS Action Network
February 26, 2016

Press Release – Feb 25, 2016

On February 22, 2016, the General Assembly of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) campaigns on campus. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns on campus. The BDS Action Network, a coalition of 19 campus groups, and calls on SSMU to lobby the McGill administration, is a complement to the Palestinian Territories’ Campaigns on campus. The vote, receiving a substantial 58% majority of the 883 students present, passed with 512 voting for, 357 voting against and 14 abstentions. SSMU members have a chance to participate in the democratic process. Online ratification ends February 27 at 9am Montreal time.

BDS is a non-violent movement initiated by 171 Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005. It is a non-violent movement. The movement has three goals: ending the occupation of all Arabs conquered in 1967, allowing Palestinian citizens of Israel full equal rights, and allowing the right of return for Palestinians who were expelled or fled their homes 194. The movement has received support from numerous people, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, Alice Walker, and Roger Waters. Many universities have also passed similar motions to McGill’s Concordia, McMaster, Stanford, and UCLA, as well as US

This motion is more than purely symbolic – its ratification would give student union support to BDS campaigns on campus, including campaigns that are complicated in the illegal occupation of Palestine in which McGill has financial holdings. This motion also seeks to highlight the voices of Palestinian students on campus, who have had their identities denied and their history erased. By investing in companies that benefit Palestinian human rights abuses, McGill is also complicit in the alienation of Palestinian students and in the occupation.

Jewish students. We acknowledge the concerns of the Jewish students. As an organization that is committed to anti-oppression and is part of an anti-racist movement, we are dedicated to fighting against all forms of discrimination in our communities, as well as ensuring that anti-Semitism is not dismissed or trivialized.

The recent Canadian parliamentary vote condemning BDS has once again shown that we can not trust the principles of human rights and justice. Just as SSMU divested in South Africa while in the Canadian government still supported apartheid, it is up to student activists to pave the way for ensuring human rights for Palestinians in defiance of the interests of the Israeli and Canadian governments. Change does not start at the governmental level, but rather with the people – and in our case, university students. We are proud that the students at the SSMU General Assembly stood on the right side of history, and we will not allow methods of intimidation by those in power to coerce the student body to side with the oppressor.

This motion was endorsed by the following on-campus groups: AMUSE, CKUT, Contours: Women’s Voices in Law, Divine McGill, SCHOOL, Feminist Collective of McGill Law, KANATA, Le Délit, McGill Against Austerity, McGill Students for Feminisms, McGill Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, McGill Syrian Students ‘Association, Midnight Kitchen, NDP McGill, QPIRG McGill, Queer McGill, The Black Students’ Network, The McGill Daily, The Union for Gender Empowerment, and The Women of Color Collective of McGill Law. It was also endorsed by Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.

McGill BDS Action Network
February 25, 2016

On February 22, 2016, the General Assembly of the McGill University Student Association voted in favor of a motion that would support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns on campus. The motion was presented by the BDS McGill Action Network, a coalition of 19 academic groups, and mandated the SUMA to support BDS campaigns on campus as well as lobby the McGill administration to Disinvesting from companies that are complicit in the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. The motion was adopted with a 58% majority of the 883 students present; 512 of them voted in favor, 357 against and 14 abstained. It is now in the process of online ratification, Giving all MUSS members the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. Online ratification ends on February 27th at 9:00 AM, Montreal time.

The BDS movement, dating from 2005, is a non-violent appeal of Palestinian civil society, including 171 trade union associations. The movement calls on the international community to encourage the disinvestment, boycott and sanction of the Israeli government until it respects the precepts of international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all lands Arabs and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of Israel’s Arab-Palestinian citizens to absolute equality; And 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. ” The movement has received the support of many individuals including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, Alice Walker and Roger Waters.

The adoption of this motion is more than symbolic: its ratification would give the student association’s support to the BDS campaigns on campus, including the campaign to divest companies complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine in which McGill Has financial shares. This motion also seeks to highlight the voices of Palestinian students on campus who have seen their identities denied and their history erased. By investing in companies that profit from Palestinian human rights violations, McGill is as much an accomplice to the alienation of Palestinian students as it is to the occupation.

We recognize the concerns expressed about anti-Semitism on campus and that this is a reality for many Jewish students. As an organization committed to anti-oppression and part of an anti-racist movement, we are dedicated to the fight against all forms of discrimination in our communities and to ensure that Anti-Semitism are not ignored or trivialized.

The recent Canadian parliamentary vote condemning the BDS movement is yet another sign that we can not trust our government when it comes to promoting human rights and the principles of international justice. Just as the MUTA was disinvested from South Africa while the Canadian government was still supporting apartheid, it is once again the role of the student community to pave the way for respect for rights Palestinians, even if this goes against the interests of the Israeli and Canadian governments. Change does not begin at the governmental level, but within the population – and in this case, within the university. We are proud that the students present at the SUMMU General Assembly have been on the right side of history,

This motion was supported by the following groups: AMUSE, CKUT, Contours: Women’s Voices in Law, Divest McGill, SCHOOL, Feminist Collective of McGill Law, KANATA, Le Délit, McGill Against Austerity, McGill Students for Feminisms, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, McGill Syrian Students ‘Association, Midnight Kitchen, NDP McGill, GRIPQ McGill, Queer McGill, The Black Students’ Network, The McGill Daily, The Union for Gender Empowerment, and The Women of Color Collective of McGill Law. The motion was also approved by Independent Jewish Voices – Canada.

BDS McGill Action Network
25 February 2016

Press Release – Feb 24, 2016

*Le français suit; French follows*

The McGill BDS Action Network would like to address concerns that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion at McGill and the conversations that surround it have emboldened anti-Semitism on campus. We acknowledge that anti-Semitism occurs on a daily basis, and we condemn it in all its forms and those who perpetuate it. As people organizing around BDS, whose mandate prioritizes human rights, an integral part of our work is fighting oppression, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. No student should feel unsafe because of their identity or political stance. Considering McGill’s history of quotas on Jewish students in the 1920s, and that anti-Semitism has always existed on our campus, we must hold the entire McGill community accountable to combat this hatred. Supporting our Jewish peers and standing up for Palestinians’ agency and safety are not mutually exclusive, and we are committed to combatting all forms of racism and xenophobia at McGill. This is an undertaking that requires the work of the whole university to resist anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and colonialism collectively.

McGill BDS Action Network

February 24, 2016

Le Réseau d’Action McGill BDS aimerait répondre aux préoccupations que la motion BDS à McGill, et les discussions l’entourant, auraient encouragé l’antisémitisme sur le campus. Nous reconnaissons que l’antisémitisme prend place quotidiennement et le condamnons dans toutes ses formes, ainsi que celles et ceux qui visent à le perpétuer. En tant que personnes organisatrices de l’initiative BDS, dont le mandat a pour priorité le respect des droits humains, une partie intégrale de notre travail comprend la lutte contre l’oppression et donc la lutte contre l’antisémitisme et l’islamophobie. Aucun(e) étudiant(e) ne devrait se sentir en danger en raison de son identité ou de son point de vue politique. Considérant l’histoire de McGill, et sa mise en place en 1920 d’un quota limitant le nombre d’étudiant(e)s juif(ve)s admis ou admises, et le fait que l’antisémitisme a toujours existé sur notre campus, nous devons tenir la communauté de McGill responsable au complet afin de combattre cette haine. Soutenir nos pairs juif(ve)s et défendre le pouvoir et la sécurité des Palestinien(ne)s ne sont pas exclusifs l’un à l’autre, et nous nous engageons à combattre toutes formes de racisme et de xénophobie à McGill. Ceci est une entreprise qui exige les efforts collectifs de l’université entière afin de résister à l’antisémitisme, l’islamophobie, le racisme et le colonialisme.

Press Release, French translation follows – Feb 11, 2016

It has recently come to our attention that McGill has updated its investment portfolio and is no longer invested in G4S, one of the companies we were targeting for divestment. The University presumably divested from G4S for financial reasons, not principled ones. McGill remains invested in L-3 Communications, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, and RE/MAX.

It has also come to our attention that McGill is invested in Bank Leumi, one of the largest banks in Israel. Bank Leumi has been targeted for divestment by the United Methodist Church pension fund and the Luxembourg Pension Fund due to its involvement in settlement construction. We are looking into McGill’s other current holdings.

McGill BDS Action Network
February 11, 2016

Communiqué de presse

Il a été récemment porté à notre attention que l’Université McGill a mis à jour son portfolio d’investissements et n’a plus d’investissements dans G4S, l’une des compagnies que nous avions ciblé pour le désinvestissement. L’Université a supposément désinvesti de G4S pour des raisons financières, et non pas pour des raisons morales. McGill détient toutefois des investissements dans L-3 Communications, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, et RE/MAX.

Il a été également porté à notre attention que McGill détient maintenant des investissements dans la Banque Leumi, l’une des plus grandes banques en Israël. Cette banque a été ciblée pour le désinvestissement par le fonds de pension United Methodist Church et la Caisse de Retraite du Luxembourg en raison de son implication dans la construction et l’expansion de colonies. Nous examinons présentement les autres investissements actualisés de McGill.

Réseau d’Action McGill BDS
11 février 2016

Press Release, French translation follows – Feb 4, 2016

There has been an international movement on university campuses, most notably in the United States, Canada, and the UK, of concerned students and faculty putting pressure on their institutions to cut ties with companies that profit from the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and from settlement expansion within those territories. Today, McGill joins this movement.

The McGill BDS Action Network is a network of individuals and organizations at McGill who are working to answer the call from Palestinian civil society for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it “meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands captured in 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

It is our responsibility to show the international community that McGill students cannot accept our institution’s complicity with Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid, continued violence against Palestinians, and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights. There is a precedent of McGill divesting from corporations complicit in human rights violations – in the 1980s, student initiatives and mobilization resulted in McGill divesting from apartheid South Africa. As allies to Palestinians, it is our moral obligation to answer the call for BDS by Palestinian civil society.

We are bringing a motion to the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly on February 22 to call on SSMU to lend its full support to any BDS campaigns on campus, and to lobby the McGill Board of Governors to divest from corporations complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.

We will also submit a report to McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) to recommend the Board of Governors divest from four companies (G4S, L-3 Communications Inc., Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, and Re/Max) whose business activities in the occupied Palestinian territories cause clear social injury and violate international law.

We call on the McGill community to stand against oppression, and to stand for justice in Palestine.

McGill BDS Action Network
February 4, 2016

Une tendance internationale croissante, remarquablement en Amérique du Nord et au Royaume-Uni, a été celle d’étudiants et membres de facultés soucieux de tenir leurs administrations universitaires responsables pour leurs liens institutionnels avec des entreprises qui bénéficient de l’occupation illégale des Territoires Palestiniens, ainsi que de l’expansion de colonies au sein de ces territoires. Aujourd’hui, l’Université de McGill rejoint ce mouvement.

Le Réseau d’Action BDS McGill est un réseau d’individus et d’organisations de McGill qui cherchent à répondre à l’appel de la société civile Palestinienne pour le Boycott, Désinvestissement et Sanctions (BDS) de l’Israël jusqu’à ce qu’elle « honore son obligation de reconnaître le droit inaliénable des Palestiniens à l’autodétermination et respecte entièrement les préceptes du droit international en:

1. Mettant fin à son occupation et à sa colonisation de tous les terres Arabes capturées en 1967 et en démantelant le Mur;
2. Reconnaissant les droits fondamentaux des citoyens Arabo-Palestiniens d’Israël à une égalité absolue; et
3. Respectant, protégeant et favorisant les droits des réfugiés palestiniens à revenir dans leurs maisons et propriétés comme stipulé dans la résolution 194 de l’ONU.»

C’est notre responsabilité de montrer à la communauté internationale que les étudiants de McGill ne peuvent pas accepter la complicité de notre institution avec le colonialisme et l’apartheid des colonies Israéliennes, la violence perpétuelle contre les Palestiniens ainsi que le mépris flagrant des droits fondamentaux des Palestiniens. Il existe à McGill un précédent de désinvestissement de corporations complices des violations de droits fondamentaux humains – dans les années 1980, des initiatives et mobilisations étudiantes ont données lieu au désinvestissement de McGill de l’apartheid de l’Afrique du Sud. En tant qu’alliés des Palestiniens, répondre à l’appel BDS de la société civile Palestinienne est notre devoir moral.

Nous présenterons une motion à l’Assemblé Générale de l’Association des Etudiants de l’Université de McGill (SSMU) le 22 Février pour faire appel à SSMU d’apporter son soutien total dans quelconque campagne BDS sur le campus, ainsi que de faire pression sur le Conseil d’Administration de McGill pour désinvestir des corporations complices de l’occupation des territoires Palestiniens.

Nous soumettrons de plus un rapport au Comité de Conseil aux Questions de Responsabilité Sociale (CAMSR – Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility) de McGill pour recommander au Conseil d’Administration de McGill un désinvestissement des compagnies clés (G4S, L-3 Communications Inc., Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank, et Re/Max) qui profitent d’activités dans les Territoires Palestiniens occupés illégalement, en violation directe de la Loi Internationale et causant de graves blessures sociales.

Nous faisons appel à la communauté de McGill de prendre parti contre l’oppression. Prendre parti pour la justice en Palestine.

Réseau d’Action BDS McGill
4 Février, 2016