The UK National Union of Students (NUS) has often shown itself incapable of providing the type of inclusive governance or leadership that allows all views and beliefs to flourish or feel welcomed. Jewish students have, in particular, experienced the sense of isolation the actions and decisions of the NUS generates.
As the troubled organisation staggers towards its annual conference next week, Jewish students have the unhappy prospect of a potential new president who is currently facing accusations of “anti-Semitism” ahead of her bid to become the organisation’s new leader.
Malia Bouattia, who presently serves as black students officer, has faced mounting criticism over an article she co-authored five years ago in which she described the University of Birmingham as “something of a Zionist outpost”, and for alleged links with an organisation currently blacklisted by the NUS.
She said on Thursday that her political views had been “misconstrued” by those accusing her of anti-Semitism.
An open letter addressed to Bouattia and signed by 56 Jewish society presidents, suggested that, “Describing large Jewish societies as a challenge is the politics of division and not solidarity which should be the case.”
The letter highlights a 2011 blog post, co-authored by Bouattia, which lists a large Jewish society among the challenges at Birmingham University.
“The University of Birmingham is something of a Zionist outpost,” the article read.
This prompted the open letter to ask: “Why do you see a large Jewish Society as a problem?”
Read the letter in full, here.
The letter goes on to allege that she held links with an organisation previously “no-platformed” by the NUS. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK) was banned by the NUS from university campuses in 2004 for anti-Semitic propaganda.
MPACUK used its website to promote the idea of a worldwide Zionist conspiracy, and included the reproduction of articles originally published on neo-Nazi and Holocaust denial websites.
MPACUK even posted “Take your holocaust, roll it nice and tight and shove it up your (be
creative)!” on their Facebook page in 2013.
Bouattia further stoked controversy in 2014 when she railed against a motion which condemned the so-called Islamic State.
Bouattia used her Facebook campaign page to post an open response to the Jewish students’ letter.
She wrote: “I do not now, nor did I five years ago when I contributed to the article cited in your letter, see a large Jewish Society on campus as a problem.
“I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish.
She continued: “I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of antisemitism, despite my work and dedication to liberation, equality and inclusion saying otherwise.”
Yet the Jewish student society presidents letter also highlighted how, “Just recently you explained at an event at SOAS that the government Prevent strategy is the result of a so-called ‘Zionist lobby’. By peddling these conspiracy theories to student audiences we are concerned that you are creating an element of suspicion towards Jewish students on campus.”
The NUS said on Thursday it would not comment on the open letter because “it is too close to the election,” taking place in Brighton next Wednesday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said: “Jewish students are rightly outraged when they see a candidate for NUS president who sees their Jewish Societies as a threat.
“Jewish students are rightly scared when they see a candidate associating themselves with organisations with a history of antisemitism and they are once again used as an easy target for conspiracy theories.”
AntiSemitismWatch comment: Do yourselves a favour NUS and vote for someone else!