It would be disappointing in the extreme if McGill University in Montreal falls short of taking disciplinary action against a student who recently called on fellow students to physically attack Zionists on campus.
Having urged his Twitter followers to “punch a Zionist today,” Igor Sadikov — a board member of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) — stands justly accused of inciting violence, a criminal offence in Canada.
Apparently “shocked” by his malignant tweet, McGill principal Suzanne Fortier issued a statement in which she condemned “all expressions of hatred and attempts to incite violence.” But it remains to be seen what measures, if any, McGill will adopt to address this disturbing issue.
Sadikov should not be allowed to get away with his incitement, but it’s clear that the SSMU will not punish him. On February 13, its board of directors narrowly rejected a motion to remove him from his position, thereby implicitly condoning his offensive behavior.
Sadikov, an activist in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, deleted his original tweet, claiming it was misunderstood. In his defence, he said he meant to criticize a “political philosophy” rather than Jews.
Far from apologizing for his disgusting tweet, Sadikov, who’s Jewish himself, said that the tweet was, in fact, an accurate reflection of his “opposition to Israel’s dispossession and colonization of Palestinian land and to (its) treatment of Palestinian people …”
Sadikov is entitled to his opinions on the Arab-Israeli conflict, whatever one may think of them. But he’s certainly not entitled to advocate violence against students who support Israel and its existence as a Jewish state.
University campuses are supposed to be sanctuaries that celebrate freedom of expression. As the University of Chicago’s dean of students, Jay Ellison, has written, “Fostering the free exchange of ideas reinforces a university priority — building a campus that welcomes people of all backgrounds. Diversity of opinion and background is a fundamental strength of our community. The members of our community must have the freedom to espouse and explore a wide range of ideas.”
At McGill, one of Canada’s finest universities, this expectation has been trashed, judging by the Sadikov affair and the blatantly biased editorial policy of the student newspaper, The McGill Daily. Not too long ago, it announced it would stop carrying pro-Israel content on the grounds that Zionism is a product of a “settler colonial ideology.”
Student newspapers, which are partially funded by student fees, have a solemn mandate to reflect responsible campus opinion across the board, but this hallowed tradition seems utterly alien to The McGill Daily, where Sadikov once worked as an editor.
McGill’s principal must now determine whether or not to discipline Sadikov, whose anti-Zionist views are not that uncommon these days on university campuses in Canada and the United States. The Sadikov incident, however, is not really about his antipathy to Israel, but rather about his intolerance to diverse points of view and his belief in the permissibility of violence.
McGill cannot, for even a moment, tolerate or excuse Sadikov’s twisted totalitarian mindset. He should be made to pay for encouraging a campaign of violence on campus.