Commentary | Hyde Park: Just say no to double standards

And don’t let our focus on Gaza distract us from other crises

Over the past week, an overpopulated territory about one third of the size of London has been the scene of heavy fighting. Trapped between two fronts, hundreds of civilian casualties – some of them children killed inside their schools – are reported by international agencies. The UN estimates that about a quarter million more are in immediate danger of death. The local government is refusing any humanitarian ceasefire, and even hindering the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) rescue operations. Its stated goal is to once and for all “eradicate the rebels.”

Does this ring a bell? Probably not – because, really, who has heard about the crisis in Sri Lanka? Have you seen the Sri Lankan flag on the cover of The Daily? The double standards of the passionate compassionates are sometimes troubling.

At the SSMU General Assembly (GA) this Thursday, students will be debating a motion brought forth by Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) that calls on the Society to both publicly condemn the military action in Gaza, as well as to support education Palestinian right to education. SPHR suggests that public initiatives could take the form of “campaigns, educational lecture series, forums and/or fundraising initiatives to support students in Gaza.”  

While the SSMU constitution empowers Council to “take all action on behalf of the Society,” this motion would mandate the SSMU Council to “condemn the bombing of the educational institutions in Gaza,” and would engage SSMU to issue “a public statement of condemnation immediately,” calling on McGill to do the same.

But one can’t help but wonder whether the GA will debate a motion calling on SSMU to support the students in Mullaitivu, and this causes me some concern.

Now, I don’t doubt SPHR’s good intentions in writing the motion, but the resolution is blatantly one-sided, arguably falls outside of SSMU’s by-laws, and perhaps most importantly is dividing our campus further by turning it into an ideological war field. SSMU is not the UN, though it may be just as dysfunctional. Regardless, Article 22 of the SSMU Constitution states, “SSMU Council will not take a position on external political issues that Council deems to be extremely divisive among students at McGill University.” This essentially means that the motion in its current format is not in compliance of the by-laws. 

Further, the motion’s preamble makes no mention of the destruction of schools by rockets, no mention of Israeli casualties, nor does it mention Hamas. It gives little importance to UN Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes blasting Hamas for its “cynical” use of civilian facilities, such as schools and hospitals, and reports by the UN confirming that Hamas fighters breached some of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency facilities. Clearly, this motion portrays an incredibly complex situation in an utterly simplified way. This motion’s partial perspective is clearly not complying with SSMU’s guidelines for motion writing, which state that motions should be unbiased.

One needs just take a look at our campus newspapers to realize how divisive the issue of the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories is. In particular, the last episode of fighting in Gaza has undoubtedly stirred tensions. Do we really need to add to the divide?

The Fall GA failed to reach quorum, but we can reject this motion by showing up this Thursday in the Shater Ballroom. Let’s make sure that we take part in upholding the SSMU Constitution, which states in its preamble that SSMU should “act in the best interests of its membership as a whole.”

Our best interest is not to call on SSMU to take sides in a conflict that has no sides. Our best interest is to ensure that we do not leave part of the student body unrepresented by SSMU’s statements. An educational institution like McGill should have none of us feel alienated by the positions of our own Society.

Perle Nicolle is a U4 Mechanical Engineering student, reachable at perle.nicolle@mail.mcgill.ca.


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