More than 60 student leaders, including three of the NUS’s Vice-Presidents, have signed an open letter calling upon the Union’s leadership to take Jewish students’ concerns seriously and address anti-Semitism effectively.
“NUS’ leadership has rightly come under increased scrutiny for its attitude towards Jewish students,” the letter reads.
“They have been held to account for undermining Jewish students’ ability to elect their own representatives, and challenged on antisemitic rhetoric. Ultimately this was a key issue in a number of disaffiliation campaigns from Students’ Unions across the country.”
The letter, among many Students’ Union Presidents and NUS Reps, was signed by Richard Brooks, NUS VP Union Development; Rob Young, NUS VP Society and Citizenship; and Shakira Martin, NUS VP Further Education.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s World at One last Wednesday, Brooks said: “When a number of Jewish students over a consistent period of time say they do not feel safe participating in student politics and in the student movement, I think we have to take that really seriously and listen.”
The signatories raised in particular an interview in The Guardian of NUS President Malia Bouattia, who has been accused by many since her election of anti-Semitic attitudes: “Jewish students have repeatedly highlighted concerns and yet again their voices have been dismissed”, the letter said.
In April a number of heads of UK student Jewish Societies expressed their concern over past comments Bouattia had made, calling upon her to apologise and tackle anti-Semitism or risk losing the confidence of many Jewish students.
In the past Bouattia has been quoted referring to her alma mater, the University of Birmingham, as “something of a Zionist outpost”.
The open letter, published to Medium on the 28th of September, reads: “We, the undersigned, stand with Jewish students in their right to feel represented, safe and welcome in participating in NUS’ democracy.
“We must listen to Jewish students when they say something is antisemitic. We apologise for anything or anyone that would make you feel otherwise, and promise to respect, champion and listen to your concerns. The student movement and NUS is absolutely a place for you.”
In response to the letter, Bouattia said: “I support my colleagues in the NUS leadership in calling for assurances that Jewish students will be safe on campus and I will do everything in my power to ensure that is the case.
“My priorities for the year ahead include a focus on inclusion, tackling hate crime on campuses and ensuring that all marginalised and oppressed groups feel safe in the movement.
“I look forward to working with my officers and NEC colleagues to continue to listen to Jewish students and support them in being part of NUS.”