'Punch a Zionist' tweet by McGill student politician prompts concern for campus safety
Tweet has been deleted, but calls for student's resignation persist
A McGill student politician's tweet saying "punch a [Z]ionist today" has sparked calls for safer campuses, along with his resignation from student politics at the Montreal university.
Igor Sadikov, 22, a member of the Student Society of McGill University's legislative council, sent the tweet Monday and deleted it Thursday.
Steven Slimovitch, a Montreal lawyer with the human rights and Jewish advocacy organization B'nai Brith Canada, denounced the tweet as "anti-Semitic garbage."
He said anti-Zionism has become a way to sublimate anti-Semitism.
"You can't stand on the street corner and do what Ernst Zundel used to do and say the Holocaust never existed. People will laugh at you," Slimovitch told CBC Montreal's Daybreak.
Anti-Zionists are not traditionally defined as anti-Semitic, but they do oppose the state of Israel's policies, or even the existence of the Jewish state.
Sadikov later apologized on social media for his original tweet, explaining it was not an attack on Jewish students.
"Given my own Jewish heritage, I believe that we must continue to disentangle Jewish identity from Zionism," Sadikov wrote.
Slimovitch doubted the student fully understood what he was saying.
"It's a standard answer for someone who, at the core, is knowingly or unknowingly spewing anti-Semitic garbage."
A coalition of McGill students posted on its Facebook page that a tweet such as Sadikov's makes everyone on campus feel unsafe. They are calling for his resignation.
"It is appalling that an elected representative who holds significant power within the McGill community is advocating violence against Zionists," the post on Vote No McGill stated.
Borrowing from the U.S.?
In December, tensions on campus made headlines when white supremacist posters began appearing in the neighbourhood around the school.
The posters featured the slogan "Make Canada Great Again" — a reference to now U.S. President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" election campaign motto.
The campus posters featured symbols against Islam, communism and homosexuality.
- 'Make Canada great again' flyers with anti-Muslim, anti-gay imagery alarm McGill University community
"We seem to have lost the concept that a university is a place of learning," Slimovitch said.
"It's a place where students go to advance their education. They shouldn't be afraid to walk the halls."
The anti-Zionist tweet also follows the style of the recently popularized "punch a Nazi" social media slogan.
In January, Richard Spencer, a man who claims he coined the term "alt-right" and runs a white nationalist website, was punched in the face during Trump's inauguration.
The phrase "punch a Nazi" became popular following the attack.
Slimovitch said that no matter what the context, violence has no place in a free and democratic society.
"The comparison is, it's OK to punch the American because he's a far-right neo-Nazi, so you know, it's like a Zionist. I mean, that's just absurd."
With files from CBC Montreal's Daybreak