Letters: BDS – It’s Okay to Remain Divided

Why I’m Voting ‘NO’ to the Upcoming BDS Motion at the SSMU GA

Miled Hill
U2/ Arts

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is that ‘the thing about hard things is that they’re hard.’ Doing well in school is difficult, because well, it just is. So is making a tough decision about your future, or deliberating upon asking someone out on on Spotted: McGill (hint: don’t). Some decisions and tasks, however, are on a completely different level of difficulty.

I’m a first generation immigrant. My father’s family escaped the Blitz and the threat of Nazi invasion. On my mother’s side, the Lebanese civil war and the systematic persecution of religious and minority cultural groups. While Lebanese Christians were by no means a minority within the state, they nonetheless suffered heavily after the multi-state invasions of Lebanon. My mother was persecuted as a Christian, and, like many others, was forced to carry an identity card dictating her religion for easier identification. “It made it easier for the firing squads to know who was who,” she said. She has recounted to me dozens of other stories that cannot justly be summarized. The Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Israeli Army, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the Syrian military, and many, many, other actors vowed for dominance in this proxy-war.

Quantifying the Arab-Israeli conflict in three bullet points, or swaying the entirety of McGill’s student body towards a single and narrow narrative, is simply impossible.

When I read the preceding paragraph to my mother for fact checking, her first reaction was “well, it’s not that simple.” She’s exactly right. Summarizing a fairly straightforward conflict like the Lebanese Civil War is impossible in such a short space. Yet, the McGill BDS Action Network, who recently issued a press release calling for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, against Israel, did so in less than 70 words. Surely, such a feat is no easy task. The only conclusion I can come to is that something is missing. In this case, more than just one piece of the puzzle.

Quantifying the Arab-Israeli conflict in three bullet points, or swaying the entirety of McGill’s student body towards a single and narrow narrative, is simply impossible. In my time at McGill, there have already been two BDS – themed anti-Israel motions brought forward to a GA;, both have failed, and both imposed an extremely simplified, easy set of ideas, on to an entire student body’s political and social views. To say that McGill students have a “responsibility to show the international community that [we] cannot accept our institution’s complicity with Israel’s continued violence against Palestinians and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights,” is also to give validate any negligence of other parties’ atrocities – just because of a vehement disagreement with another’s. That is not a path to peace. It is a path to continued hatred and disdain for the State of Israel – and its supporters at McGill.

More so, students at McGill who do not necessarily support Israel, but rather support a two-state solution and long lasting peace (which is where I would place myself on the spectrum), feel alienated by a motion that supports one actor or another, and ignores the true reality of the incredibly complex conflict. This motion is the equivalent of an exclusively pro-Israel student group putting forward a motion ‘condemning the continued human rights abuses of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in Gaza.’ I doubt that would go over well due to the simple fact that such a narrative inherently is incomplete.

Israel is not simple. Condemning it so vehemently will not work – especially in a campus full of students that do not adhere to a singular narrative. The right thing to do, and yes, the hard thing to do, is to let McGill’s student body remain divided in their positions. Don’t force them to say “yes” or “no” on the most controversial topic in modern political history. Rather, allow us to debate in the right forums – whether that be in classrooms and academia, or in our professional and personal lives. But do not impose a single narrative – all in less than 70 words – onto entire student body, especially not after they have twice-defeated similar motions  before.  

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Bull & Bear.

Miled Hill is a U2 Arts Student. You can reach him at miled.hill@mail.mcgill.ca.