SU Wellbeing Officer Saqib Mahmood welcomed the move and encouraged other societies to follow suit
Manchester Labour Students (MLS) have announced to its members that new training aimed at tackling anti-Semitism has been added to their programme of events in December.
It was confirmed to be taking place on the society’s Facebook group, by events officer Leah Millward.
Sarah-Jane Smyth, the Co-Chair of MLS for the University of Manchester, said in a statement that the event was planned for the last academic year, but that this had to be cancelled due to the calling of the snap general election. “The training is offered to all Labour Students Clubs in the country and is run by Labour Students, the Union of Jewish Students and the Jewish Labour Movement, in light of the Chakrabarti inquiry.”
“I’m really proud to be a member of an organisation that is so proactive in tackling antisemitism.” Smyth also said.
Ella Rose, National Director of the Jewish Labour Movement, Melantha Chittenden, National Chair of Labour Students and Liron Velleman, Campaigns Manager of the Union of Jewish Students, explained in a joint statement the objectives of the event: “The session helps participants understand and confront antisemitism, and explores ways to engage Jewish students. It is starting to have an impact across the country, having reached over 1,200 Labour Party members to date.”
Frankie Simons, MLS campaigns officer, who is also Jewish, said to the Mancunion: “The increased anti-semitism within the party in recent years has been well documented, but events of this type demonstrate a resolve from within Labour Students as an organisation, and within my own Labour club, to stamp out the problem and educate all members about what is and what is not acceptable — particularly when criticising Israel.
“The swift and decisive way that Labour Students and Manchester Labour Students have acted previously, when tackling cases of anti-Semitism, have meant I’m proud to be a Jewish Student activist in the Labour Party.”
The news comes after a series of high profile events at local, and national level, within the party involving alleged anti-Semitism.
This May, MMU Co-Chair of MLS, Tayyib Nawaz was forced to resign over tweets seen by The Mancunion that were anti-Semitic in nature.
In October of last year, the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded in its own report on anti-Semitism that: “The failure of the Labour Party to deal consistently and effectively with antisemitic incidents in recent years risks lending force to allegations that elements of the Labour movement are institutionally antisemitic”
Manchester Students’ Union Wellbeing Officer Saqib Mahmood welcomed the introduction of the training, and confirmed that the Union will be holding similar events.
Mahmood said that he was “glad that something like this has been put forward” and that it was a “shame” that people have to be trained to not be anti-Semitic.
“I’m going to be putting in place anti-Semitism and Islamophobia training. Islamaphobia training will be held this month, as part of Islamaphobia awareness month” he added.
Mahmood also suggested that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign should take an active role in these kind of events.
“I think most people get BDS confused with anti-Semitism” he said, adding that “My opinion is: I really don’t know much about BDS to give a comment, but I think that the training should be put forward to, especially those who are part of the BDS society or BDS campaign.”
According to Mahmood, this was in order to ensure that they knew “where they need to draw a line.”
In response to this, UoM BDS campaign said in a statement to the Mancunion: “The students of the BDS campaign should NOT be singled out for anti-semitism training.”
“Attempts to slur activists working for justice for Palestinians are nothing new, and are the main strategy to silence those appalled by Israel’s ongoing brutal occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.”
They continued: “We abhor racism of any kind – anti semitism, islamophobia [sic] or any other forms of racism are abhorrent.” they also said.
Saqib Mahmood later told The Mancunion, that he did not mean to target BDS specifically, and would like to see this training opened out to all societies: “As an exec we feel that it is important to discuss these issues openly and honestly and to ensure that political concerns do not cross from being genuine debate into the realms of bigotry. No one society or campaign is exempt from systemic prejudices in our society but equally no one society should be singled out unfairly.
“We also note that MLS has a very progressive policy to deliver anti-racist and unconscious bias training and we look forward to being approached to help facilitate this.”