US student, Israel lobby groups behind McGill lawsuit

Jonah Fried

What to do if you are unable to convince your peers to vote for apartheid? Sue them.

Two weeks ago Jonah Fried launched a lawsuit against the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU), Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and McGill’s administration. He is alleging that they are responsible for discrimination and harassment.

Leading Canadian apartheid lobby group B’nai Brith announced it would finance the legal action. The wealthy, government-subsidized charity has a legal department largely devoted to anti-Palestinian cases.

It’s unclear if B’nai Brith reached out to Fried or vice versa, but what is clear is that this isn’t the fourth-year student’s first repressive move in support of racial apartheid. Before students voted on a Palestine Solidarity Policy in March Fried tried to block the vote. He sought an injunction with SSMU’s Judicial Board to disqualify the resolution, citing an earlier Israel lobby effort to outlaw motions supporting the BDS movement.

But the vote went ahead and 71% of McGill undergraduates supported boycotting “corporations and institutions complicit in settler-colonial apartheid against Palestinians.”

In response to the overwhelming vote of fellow undergraduates, Fried sought to have SSMU’s Judicial Board annul the democratic will. Amidst extreme pressure from the university administration, B’nai Brith and others, SSMU’s board of directors struck down the already adopted resolution. But that wasn’t enough for Fried. He now wants a provincial court to block McGill students from being able to collectively take action in support of Palestinian rights. In other words, the New York transplant wants Québec’s Superior Court to prevent McGill students from exercising their democratic rights in the hopes this will further protect a violent, colonial, system in the Middle East.

Fried is a fellow with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis. CAMERA fellows receive US $1,500 and the opportunity to attend an International Student Leadership Conference if they fulfill a series of anti-Palestinian actions.

A rabidly pro-apartheid ‘flack’ group, CAMERA says university “campuses are the scene of propagandistic assaults on Israel”. The group monitors Israel discussion on campus and calls for “tracking all relevant class curriculum offered at your university.” According to the Jewish Forward, CAMERA is “known for intimidation and smear campaigns against scholars and students whose views they oppose.”

The Boston-based group had a $5.7 million budget in 2020. Though the organization tries to keep its donors anonymous, a 2016 Haaretz investigation found CAMERA received more than $1.5 million from Seth Klarman, a billionaire hedge fund manager who cofounded The Times of Israel, was a board member and major donor to the anti-Muslim The Israel Project, as well as providing funds to NGO Monitor and illegal West Bank settlements. Haaretz also found that CAMERA received hundreds of thousands of dollars from now deceased Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. According to the Jewish Forward, CAMERA was one of the “organizations aligned with right-wing and hawkish political views” that presented at the 2015 Adelson-sponsored Campus Maccabees summit, which raised at least $20 million and maybe as much $50 million to attack critics of Israel.

Besides CAMERA and B’nai Brith, Fried has received support from other elements of the Israel lobby. In March he won first prize for a paper on “McGill University’s Arab-Israeli Conflict” at an Undergraduate Scholars Conference put on by the Israel Studies at University of California, Los Angeles. Established in 2010, the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies was endowed by Younes Nazarian, a former board member of Friends of the IDF who received Israel’s highest honor (Torch Lighting Ceremony on Mount Hertzl).

Fried received a Leanor and Alvin Segal Award from McGill’s Department of Jewish Studies, which was reportedly worth $4,500. The Segals are among pro-Israel donors that have given millions of dollars to sustain a Jewish studies program where Fried studies and edits its undergraduate journal. In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish studies department for a partnership with Hillel and Federation CJA, which is Montréal’s leading promoter of apartheid and opponent of McGill student autonomy.

CAMERA fellows are paid to write anti-Palestinian articles, which indirectly subsidizes a number of pro-apartheid media outlets. Fried has written for arch Zionist Algeimer, The Suburban and Jerusalem Post. Last year he published “An anti-Israel professor teaches at McGill”, which sought to intimidate Rula Jurdi Abisaab and criminalize her Palestine solidarity as “supporting terrorism”.

Seeking to intimidate professors, labeling opposition to apartheid as “antisemitism” and suing your peers is a tacit admission that you’ve failed to make the case for Israel. Unable to win the argument, the apartheid lobby increasingly relies on smears and legal action. But anti-democratic maneuvers can only stunt Palestine solidarity for so long and in many ways will achieve the opposite effect.

 

Please take a minute to tell McGill to defend its students from Israel lobby bullying

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