There is something inherently misguided about the assumption that those who supported the “no” side of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) motion have never felt alienated before the February 22 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) General Assembly (GA). In a previous letter, an anonymous supporter of the BDS motion wrote that “quite frankly, it is a privilege to never have felt alienated at McGill before this GA, to which the ‘no’ side, presumably unaware that the motion targeted corporations and not students, seemed to be oblivious.” This generalizing statement is appalling.
Conflating the Jewish experience with the white experience is at the core of the anti-Semitic narrative that has been perpetuated in Western culture for centuries. More recently, anti-Zionism has acted as a tremendous cover for anti-Semitism. Whether or not this was what underpinned the nullified BDS motion, it undoubtedly plays into the marginalization of Jewish students on campus. It seems audacious for a group that is supposedly “anti-racist” to sit back and watch anti-Semitic incidents unfold on campus, and even stand behind a group that made blatantly anti-Semitic remarks during the GA.
What gives the group of “yes” supporters the right to say that Jewish students cannot use anti-oppressive rhetoric, or declare, on their behalf, that they are not oppressed at all? Associating Jews with privilege, as aforementioned, does nothing but play into anti-Semitic stereotypes. Labelling Jewish feelings of being unsafe on campus as “discomfort” reduces thousands of years of oppression to nothing. As well, “no” supporters never went so far as to label what their opponents may or may not be feeling. The marginalization of any other group was never questioned, simply because it was not the place of the “no” supporters to say that another group hadn’t been oppressed. Why, then, can the “yes” campaign tell “no” supporters what language they can and cannot use, or what arguments they can or cannot make? This contributes more to the dangerous space that Jews and Zionists occupy at McGill than could ever be properly expressed in writing.
The letter “Who is really alienated at McGill?” smears Zionism with ‘Jewish privilege,’ a phrase that is almost an oxymoron. As a Jew, and one who has witnessed anti-Semitism on several occasions, I can hardly type the words “Jewish privilege” without laughing. It is glaringly anti-Semitic to reduce the Jewish experience to one of privilege, and hugely contributes to the environment that opponents of this motion predicted would occur.