Richard Brooks, the National Union of Students’ (NUS) Vice-President, has been implicated in an attempted plot to oust Malia Bouattia, as revealed by an undercover Al Jazeera investigation.
Brooks was secretly filmed by the undercover reporter, claiming that he played a significant role in attempts to undermine Bouattia.
The undercover reporter claimed to be a political activist linked to Shai Masot, the Israeli diplomat who was caught out prior to these revelations plotting to “take down” MPs he viewed as hostile to Israel.
When asked if Brooks knew how to get in touch with people who opposed Bouattia, Brooks told the reporter, he could “speak to me, because I’ve been organising them”.
The investigation by Al Jazeera also revealed that Brooks had visited Israel on a trip paid for by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and alleges that Brooks was involved in secret meetings prior to Bouattia’s election with Russel Langer, the UJS campaign director.
According to the Al Jazeera investigation, Michael Rubin, who at the time of Bouattia’s election was National Chair of Labour students, told them that in secret meetings with Brooks they would plan “how to get moderate people with good politics and any number of things elected to certain places.”
He also told the reporter that he worked “with the ambassador and embassy quite a lot” and stated that Bouattia was “really bad” and “awful”.
Bouattia has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism, often referencing her description of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost”.
A report published last year by the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee claimed that Bouattia “does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism on campus”.
In response to these allegations, many involved in the NUS have tweeted their responses, including Hareem Ghani, Women’s Officer for the NUS who stated: “Just going to say it as it is, I’ve never been so disappointed work for this organisation [sic]. Solidarity to @MaliaBouattia.”
Richard Brooks however called the claims “wrong and offensive”, tweeting his response in which he states: “It’s no surprise to anybody who knows me, or has heard me speak publicly, that myself and Malia don’t see eye to eye… It’s therefore not a shock or an exposé that I politically organise against what I think to be an ineffectual and damaging Presidency for Students’ Unions and students.”
He added that he was “proud to stand with UJS in ensuring everyone feels they have voiced in our open, inclusive, democratic debates”.
However he claims to have never met, to his knowledge, someone from the Israeli Government, instead arguing that “the ‘exposé’ documentary shows me saying that I do politics and disagree with the far left. None of these thing [sic] are surprises.”
The Campaigns Director for UJS, Josh Nagli said in a Facebook post that, “our work taking student leaders to Israel and Palestine is not secret, it’s even mentioned on UJS’ Wikipedia page, and the fact that some participants choose not to broadcast their experiences reflects the toxic nature of student politics”.
He added that “the insidious suggestion that Jewish students — or Jews in Britain more broadly — slavishly support specific government policies or actions, conspire with or take direction from Israeli officials, is grossly offensive”.
When asked for a statement on the allegations, an NUS spokesperson told The Mancunion the “NUS takes these allegations seriously. We are looking into them and, when we have all the information available, the behaviour of NUS officers will be reviewed and appropriate action taken”.
The revelations surrounding Richard Brooks were not the only Israeli influence within the student movement uncovered by the six month investigation. The undercover reporter alleges that the Israeli embassy is influencing students and founding youth groups in an attempt to infiltrate the UK student movement.
The reporter was offered support by Israeli diplomat Masot to set up a new pro-Israel group. Masot boasted to the reporter that he had been involved in setting up a youth branch of Conservative Friends of Israel and was involved in the youth arm of the Fabian Society, a Labour party think-tank.
He offered the reporter a job running the youth wing of Labour Friends of Israel, as “there’s no-one who’s educating the grassroots of the party… Specifically in the Labour. Conservatives don’t need it.”
The Israeli Embassy released a statement when Masot’s remarks concerning hostile MP’s were released, apologising for his comments and stating that he would be “ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly”.
The Mancunion has contacted the Israeli Embassy for a further statement about these allegations, and has reached out to Malia Bouattia and the Union of Jewish Students for comments.
This is a developing story and will be updated.