StandWithUs Canada, an organization “dedicated to educating people of all ages about Israel and to combating the extremism and anti-Semitism”, issued on February 13th, 2017, a statement condemning the Student Society at McGill University (SSMU) for voting against the removal of Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) Representative Igor Sadikov.
The vote – 4 in favor, 5 against, and 1 abstaining – took place at the request of AUS itself, after Sadikov tweeted “punch a Zionist today” from his personal account.
“With this vote, SSMU has legitimized calls for violence against all students who believe that the Jewish people, like all others, have a right to self-determination in their homeland. This includes individuals of all backgrounds but will undoubtedly have a disproportionately negative effect on the Jewish community at McGill. SSMU should be ashamed of its inaction in the face of such clear incitement against the students it is elected to represent,” StandWithUs Canada‘s statement reads.
In a Facebook post n February 9, 2017 Igor Sadikov retracted his controversial statement and apologized:
Statement regarding the tweet I recently published: I regret the way that I phrased my opposition to Zionism and the fact that some of my constituents and fellow students felt harmed by it. To be clear, this tweet was not an attack against Jewish students, but on the adherents of a political philosophy that has detrimental impacts on Palestinians on a daily basis. This is an ideology that I oppose, in the same way that I oppose colonization and dispossession in Canada, in the United States, and elsewhere in the world. Given my own Jewish heritage, I believe that we must continue to disentangle Jewish identity from Zionism. Finally, I do not condone nor advocate violence on the basis of membership in any identity group.
A day later he expressed his regret over “highly objectionable tweets of a violent and discriminatory nature”:
It has recently been brought to my attention that, between the years of 2009 and 2012, before I entered university, I published several highly objectionable tweets of a violent and discriminatory nature on my Twitter account. These tweets are currently being used to blackmail me, and so I want to address the situation honestly and openly.
These tweets contained violent slurs and discriminatory remarks targeting racialized people, women, queer people, people with disabilities, and people with mental illness. One tweet in particular was an intentionally outrageous hateful comment toward Black people, and contained a racial slur and a reference to a hate group. While it did not accurately reflect my attitudes toward Black people at the time of its publication, this tweet was an act of violence and has caused significant harm to Black people regardless of my intent.
I deeply regret the publication of these tweets and I take responsibility for the harm that they caused. My careless use of slurs and discriminatory statements reflected the biases that I held at the time, but cannot be excused by ignorance. I should have been aware of the harmful effects of my statements, and I should not have published these tweets. I sincerely apologize for having done so.
Since 2012, I have developed my understanding of social justice through anti-oppression training, work experience, coursework, volunteering, activism, and independent learning. I stand firmly opposed to racism, sexism, heterosexism, and ableism, and my past behaviour is not reflective of the values that I now hold. Seeing those tweets again has reminded me that anti-oppression work is a process of continuous learning – a process that I look forward to continuing with the necessary humility.
Although I have now deleted the tweets in question, I recognize that the harm that they caused, both at the time of their publication and throughout the period during which they were available on my Twitter profile, is ongoing. Furthermore, as a student representative and as a member of activist groups on campus, I expect to be held to a high standard on equity-related matters. As such, I am offering to work with anyone who is or has been affected by my behaviour to repair and be accountable for the harm that I caused.
I remain available for further discussion of this issue. Thank you all for reading.