There’s a good chance that you’ve heard by now about Igor ‘Punch a Zionist’ Sadikov, the McGill student leader who encouraged and incited violence against supporters of Israel on Twitter.
It is my opinion that Sadikov’s tweet epitomizes a bizarre “human rights” movement, the supporters of which seem to believe in the phrase, “Free speech for me, but not for thee.” Meaning, we all have the right to freedom of expression and the freedom to belong to movements that strive for self-determination – except for when those rights apply to the Jewish people. Those people, who believe that Israel is their homeland (a belief backed by genetic studies and thousands-year-old archaeological and historical fact), should apparently all be punched, according to Igor Sadikov and his supporters.
A few weeks ago, Richard Spencer, a prominent figure in the “alt-right” movement, was sucker-punched on video, and scores of people went to social media to celebrate what was essentially a violent act. But there were also those who wouldn’t let politics deter them from acknowledging the reality of the situation: that celebrating violence, regardless of who it’s directed at, is a direct contradiction of North American ethos. In Canada and the United States, we simply do not believe in encouraging violence against people for presenting their opinions, no matter how odious they might be.
On university and college campuses, so-called “social justice warriors” are doubling down on this issue and shouting down anyone who disagrees with their maximalist positions, and yes, even threaten violence to shut down discourse.
Anyone with a decent moral compass understands that threatening violence against people who disagree with you politically is wrong. It would lead to the breakdown of the social contract and to total anarchy, which, needless to say, would be anathema to most Canadians.
Enter Independent Jewish Voices, McGill. By posting a lengthy statement in support of Sadikov, the group makes the (futile) point that anti-Zionism and antisemitism are not linked (they are), and that “anti-Zionism is not an act of Jewish hatred.”
In its statement, IJV McGill does not condemn the threat of violence against Zionists. Instead, the group condemns the “harassment” of Sadikov because he was inundated with memes and angry responses to his initial tweet.
IJV McGill attempts to separate Zionism from Jewish identity by claiming that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. If you believe that the liberation movement of the Jewish people – whose sole objective was self-determination on Jewish ancestral lands – is the only liberation movement worth condemning, then you are indeed antisemitic, whether you are Jewish or not or whether, in Sadikov’s case, you hide from it or not.
The group also uses language that is not only unabashedly false, but dangerous. Zionism is not an ideology that supports the “colonization of Palestine.” Au contraire, Zionism is actually about the indigenous Jewish people’s quest to return to their ancestral homeland: Israel. The fact that Palestinian leaders have time and time again refused a state, refused to negotiate or acknowledge the State of Israel, refused to stop inciting violence and terrorism, and refused to spend millions in aid on developing the Palestinian economy or supporting Palestinian citizens, is why there are so many Palestinians today living in peril.
IJV McGill’s statement purports to condemn grouping Zionism with Nazism, yet the entire first part of its statement obliquely conflates Zionism to the “punch a Nazi” meme. I would say that it’s a pretty obvious, albeit flawed and untruthful, comparison made by a group that is oblivious to both political and historical facts.
IJV McGill relies on ignorance to further its agenda, plain and simple. When organizations like it spew false narratives to younger generations who are unaware of reality, that’s when falsehoods become fact, and that’s why there are thousands of misinformed people out there who are ignorant about this situation.
In any context other than self-defence, violence is wrong, and should never be advocated, even in jest. As such, IJV McGill should be ashamed of refusing to condemn violence. I’d advise that the group starts paying more attention to the facts, and less to the ramblings of other young, impressionable and misinformed students like Igor Sadikov.
Ryan Bellerose is an indigenous rights activist, Zionist, and Western Advocacy Coordinator of B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights.