Over 150 McGill profs sign open letter condemning BDS

McGill BDS students demonstrate on campus MCGILL DAILY PHOTO
McGill BDS students demonstrate on campus MCGILL DAILY PHOTO

This spring, when a small minority of McGill students tried for the third time in 18 months to pass a resolution calling to boycott Israel and succeeded temporarily, too many people were quick to say that “McGill” was boycotting Israel. The measure soon failed the students’ own online ratification process and prompted a powerful letter from Principal Suzanne Fortier denouncing such boycotts.

An informal network of McGill professors recently circulated the letter below. Despite a rather unsystematic, improvised approach which probably failed to contact many more supporters, more than 150 colleagues very quickly signed up to endorse Principal Fortier’s clear, principled, stand. None of us can recall so many McGill colleagues coming together in support of any issue in the decades we all have taught at this institution – and we can think of few instances in North America recently whereby dozens of professors signed such a letter.

At a time when campuses are perceived as increasingly anti-Semitic, shortly after the University of Toronto hosted the Holocaust denier Ken O’Keefe, who railed against “Jewish supremacists” and their alleged control of Hollywood and “the financial system,” it is important to recognize the silent professorial majority that is fair, reasonable, and against bigotry of all kinds.

The following letter affirms the broad range of opinions at McGill University and proves that “McGill” a complex institution with thousands of students, professors and administrators is certainly not in favour of a boycott, and is in fact home to many passionate defenders of academic freedom and the State of Israel.

– Gil Troy

Professor of History, McGill University

Dear Principal Fortier,

As faculty members, past and present, who have devoted much of our professional lives to McGill, we are writing to tell you how proud we are of your courageous stance against the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and for what you identified as “academic freedom, equity, inclusiveness and the exchange of views and ideas in responsible, open discourse.”

We echo your support for the “tolerance and respect we cherish as values fundamental to a university.” As academics who represent a wide range of political views and methodologies we all know that open discourse is essential to the pursuit of truth. Boycotts and intellectual bullying have no place at McGill or at any other institution of higher learning.

Unfortunately, in its disproportionate focus on Israel, in its founding declaration, and in many statements by key members of the movement, the BDS movement tries to squelch speech and intimidate those who support Israel’s right to exist. The BDS movement repeatedly jumps from criticizing particular Israeli policies to delegitimizing the State of Israel. The July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS quickly shifts from fighting “the occupation” to demonizing Israel to rejecting Israel’s existence. The leading BDS activist Omar Barghouti – whose calls for boycott overlook his own studies at Tel Aviv University – states a “Jewish state in Palestine in any shape or form cannot but contravene the basic rights of the indigenous Palestinians.”

Such statements do not leave much scope for debate.

While we as signatories have many different opinions about Israel and we affirm the need for a robust debate about any country’s policies, including Israel’s, the tone and tactics of the BDS movement echo traditional anti-Semitic obsessions and tropes. As educators, we are distressed when we hear our students telling at us how uncomfortable they have been made to feel by an increasingly aggressive pursuit of the anti-Israel boycott, reflected by the repeated attempts to vote it in, no matter how many times the supporters fail.

We all need to affirm our commitment to fighting bigotry of all kinds, even when masked behind human rights rhetoric or even if allied with political positions we might support. We fail when our students don’t feel genuinely safe in our university and the BDS movement has made McGill students feel unsafe, unsupported, and unwelcome in their and our academic home.

We join you in appealing to all members of the McGill community, especially our colleagues, our students, and our alumni, to continue supporting the university as a safe yet challenging space for respectful political discourse and true learning.

We thank you for affirming “the core principles of McGill” and reminding us that our “mission” remains “to advance learning and create and disseminate knowledge by offering the best possible education, by carrying out research and scholarly activities judged to be excellent by the highest international standards, and by providing service to society.” In signing below, we emphasize our shared commitment to those goals and undertake to be vigilant in preserving the openness, tolerance, and civility that has made our years of service to McGill so rewarding, both professionally and personally.

Sincerely (signed alphabetically),

1. David Aberbach (Faculty of Arts)
2. Nancy Adler (Faculty of Management)
3. Rhonda Amsel (Faculty of Science)
4. Tal Arbel (Faculty of Engineering)
5. Jim Archibald (School of Continuing Studies)
6. Isabelle Bajeux (Faculty of Management)
7. Jean Barrette (Faculty of Science)
8. Gerald Batist (Faculty of Medicine)
9. Shari Baum (Faculty of Medicine)
10. John Bergeron (Faculty of Medicine)
11. Irving Binik (Faculty of Science)
12. Amy Blum (Faculty of Science)
13. Reuven Brenner (Faculty of Management)
14. Pnina Brodt (Faculty of Medicine)
15. Jake Burack (Faculty of Education)
16. Calvin Kalman (Faculty of Education)
16. Eric Caplan (Faculty of Arts)
17. Victor Cohen (Faculty of Medicine)
18. Nathalie Cooke (Faculty of Arts)
19. Jeremy Cooperstock (Faculty of Engineering)
20. Irwin Cotler (Faculty of Arts)
21. Gordon Crelinsten (Faculty of Medicine)
22. Benjamin Croitoru (Faculty of Management)
23. A. Claudio Cuello (Faculty of Medicine)
24. Henri Darmon (Faculty of Science)
25. Natalie Dayan (Faculty of Medicine)
26. Nick de Takacsy (Faculty of Science)
27. Antal Deutsch (Faculty of Arts)
28. Greg Dudek (Faculty of Science)
29. Adi Eisenberg (Faculty of Engineering)
30. Mark Eisenberg (Faculty of Medicine)
31. Michelle Elizov (Faculty of Medicine)
32. Ariel Fenster (Faculty of Science)
33. Frank Ferrie (Faculty of Engineering)
34. Lea Fima (Faculty of Arts)
35. Nathan Friedman (Faculty of Science)
36. Ruby Friedman (Faculty of Medicine)
37. Gershon Frisch (Faculty of Medicine)
38. Mike Fronda (Faculty of Arts)
39. Abraham Fuks (Faculty of Medicine)
40. John Galaty (Faculty of Arts)
41. John Galbraith (Faculty of Arts)
42. Charles Gale (Faculty of Science)
43. Natasha Garfield (Faculty of Medicine)
44. Ronald Gehr (Faculty of Engineering)
45. Guillaume Gervais (Faculty of Science)
46. Brian Gilfix (Faculty of Medicine)
47. Phil Gold (Faculty of Medicine)
48. David Goltzman (Faculty of Medicine)
49. Anna Gonshor (Faculty of Arts)
50. Eyal Goren (Faculty of Science)
51. Laurie Gottlieb (Faculty of Medicine)
52. Walter Gottlieb (Faculty of Medicine)
53. Martin Grant (Faculty of Science)
54. Christopher Green (Faculty of Arts)
55. Ilana Greenstone (Faculty of Medicine)
56. Peter Grutter (Faculty of Science)
57. Pengfei Guan (Faculty of Science)
58. Matt Haimovitz (Faculty of Music)
59. Yael Halevi-Wise (Faculty of Arts)
60. David Harpp (Faculty of Science)
61. Robert Hebdon (Faculty of Management)
62. Jacques Hurtubise (Faculty of Science)
63. Vojkan Jaksic (Faculty of Science)
64. John Jonas (Faculty of Engineering)
65. Barbara Jones (Faculty of Medicine)
66. Rosalie Jukier (Faculty of Law)
67. Lawrence Kaplan (Faculty of Arts)
68. Susan Kahn (Faculty of Medicine)
69. Niky Kamran (Faculty of Science)
70. Feige Kaplan (Faculty of Medicine)
71. Victoria Kaspi (Faculty of Science)
72. Barbel Knauper (Faculty of Science)
73. Richard Kremer (Faculty of Medicine)
74. Sara Laimon (Faculty of Music)
75. Harry Leib (Faculty of Engineering)
76. Henry Leighton ( Faculty of Science)
77. Adrian Langleben (Faculty of Science)
78. David Langleben (Faculty of Medicine)
79. Martin Levine (Faculty of Engineering)
80. Daniel Levitin (Faculty of Science)
81. Barry Levy (Faculty of Arts)
82. Phillipe Levy (Faculty of Management)
83. Michael Libman (Faculty of Medicine)
84. Annette Majnemer (Faculty of Medicine)
85. Errol Marliss (Faculty of Medicine)
86. Barbara Mazer (Faculty of Medicine)
87. Bruce Mazer (Faculty of Medicine)
88. Morton Mendelson (Faculty of Science)
89. Caroline Michel (Faculty of Medicine)
90. Catalin Mihalcioiu (Faculty of Medicine)
91. Seymour Mishkin (Faculty of Medicine)
92. Debbie Moskowitz (Faculty of Science)
93. Laurent Mydlarski (Faculty of Engineering)
94. Meyer Nahon (Faculty of Engineering)
95. Jean-Christophe Nave (Faculty of Science)
96. Adam Oberman (Faculty of Science)
97. Daniel Obrand (Faculty of Medicine)
98. Eugene Orenstein (Faculty of Arts)
99. Philip Oxhorn (Faculty of Arts)
100. Joel Paris (Faculty of Medicine)
101. Dmytro Perepichka (Faculty of Science)
102. Mikael Pichot (Faculty of Science)
103. Louise Pilote (Faculty of Medicine)
104. Ilya Poletaev (Faculty of Music)
105. Barry Posner (Faculty of Medicine)
106. Piotr Przytycki (Faculty of Science)
107. Bernard Robaire (Faculty of Medicine)
108. David Ronis (Faculty of Science)
109. Bernard Rosenblatt (Faculty of Medicine)
110. David Rosenblatt (Faculty of Medicine)
111. Charles Roth (Faculty of Science)
112. Rima Rozen (Faculty of Medicine)
113. Brian Rubineau (Faculty of Management)
114. Filippo Sabetti (Faculty of Arts)
115. Marcin Sabok (Faculty of Science)
116. Philip Carl Salzman (Faculty of Arts)
117. Ernesto Schiffrin (Faculty of Medicine)
118. Hyman Schipper (Faculty of Medicine)
119. Joe Schwarcz (Faculty of Science)
120. Inna Scharf (Faculty of Engineering)
121. Ron Schondorf (Faculty of Medicine)
122. Michael Sebag (Faculty of Medicine)
123. Stan Shapiro (Faculty of Medicine)
124. Richard Sheppard (Faculty of Medicine)
125. Mark Sherman (Faculty of Medicine)
126. Barbara Sherwin (Faculty of Science)
127. Michael Shevell (Faculty of Medicine)
128. Alvin Shrier (Faculty of Medicine)
129. Harvey Sigman (Faculty of Medicine)
130. Ada Sinacore (Faculty of Education)
131. Brian Smith (Faculty of Management)
132. Nahum Sonenberg (Faculty of Medicine)
133. Alan Spatz (Faculty of Medicine)
134. Samy Suissa (faculty of Medicine)
135. Thomas Szkopek (Faculty of Engineering)
136. Moshe Szyf (Faculty of Medicine)
137. Gloria Tanenbaum (Faculty of Medicine)
138. Jason Tanny (Faculty of Medicine)
139. David Y. Thomas (Faculty of Medicine)
140. Michel L. Tremblay (Faculty of Medicine)
141. Gil Troy (Faculty of Arts)
142. Axel Van den Berg (Faculty of Arts)
143. Murray Vasilevsky (Faculty of Medicine)
144. Tom Velk (Faculty of Arts)
145. Mark Wainberg (Faculty of Medicine)
146. Harold Waller (Faculty of Arts)
148. Daniel Wise (Faculty of Science)
149. Morty Yalovsky (Faculty of Management)
150. Karen Zajdman-Borden (Faculty of Management)
151. Cleve Ziegler (Faculty of Medicine)
152. Victoria Zinde-Walsh (Faculty of Arts)
153. Edith Zorychta (Faculty of Medicine)
154. John Zucchi (Faculty of Arts)
155. David Zuroff (Faculty of Science)

Photo: McGill Daily Flick