Months have now passed since the election of Malia Bouattia as President of the National Union of Students. Upon her election, Bouattia attracted criticism from various groups about her beliefs towards Jewish people, with herself being on the record saying things that some branded as antisemitic.
Referring to Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost” (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism
-Home Affairs Committee
A Parliamentary Report by the Home Affairs Committee has recently been published, and the report slams the NUS for their inaction in tackling antisemitism. Speaking in Jewish News, Vice-President for Society and Citizenship said, that the NUS National Executive Committee “want to ensure that we are not working with the [Union of Jewish Students] as closely as we have in the past”, a comment made in light of Bouattia and the NEC’s decision to no longer consult the Union of Jewish Students on the selection of a Jewish representative for the NUS’ Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascism Taskforce.
The report, authored by MPs including Chuka Umunna (LAB – Streatham) and Naz Shah (LAB – Bradford West, formerly held by George Galloway) continues:
“The current President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of antisemitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students’ concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns.
There is of course no reason why an individual who has campaigned for the rights of Palestinian people—a cause widely supported on university campuses—should not serve as President of the NUS. But Ms Bouattia’s choice of language (and ongoing defence of that language) suggests a worrying disregard for her duty to represent all sections of the student population and promote balanced and respectful debate.
Referring to Birmingham University as a “Zionist outpost” (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism, which is unacceptable, and even more so from a public figure such as the President of the NUS.
The unique nature of antisemitism requires a unique response, which may not be effectively addressed by the steps that the NUS is currently taking. For the sake of their own credibility and to ensure Jewish students across the UK are treated appropriately, the NUS and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) should work to mend their broken relationship.
The Jewish member of the Anti-Racism, Anti-Fascist (ARAF) Taskforce should be elected by the UJS, and should not require the approval of the President of the NUS.
If, after a one year ‘grace period’, the UJS does not believe that the ARAF Taskforce is up to the challenge of tackling antisemitism on campus, an Antisemitism Taskforce should be established at the Executive level of the NUS, aimed at ensuring that British universities are a safe space for students of all faiths or none.”
This comes in light of a wave of NUS disaffiliations over the summer, with some claiming this is due to Bouattia’s leadership.