The recently-elected MMU Co-Chair of Manchester Labour Students (MLS), Tayyib Nawaz, has stood down from his position, after the uncovering of offensive tweets seen by The Mancunion.
The tweets – some of which have now been deleted – regarding Jewish and gay people, as well as feminists, surfaced late last week and were brought to the attention of the society. At an official MLS meeting on Monday night, a motion calling for his resignation, brought by outgoing University of Manchester Co-Chair Zak Deakin, was unanimously backed by the committee. On Tuesday afternoon, Nawaz chose to resign from the post.
Former MLS Campaigns Officer Marley Bennett, speaking to The Mancunion before the resignation, said Nawaz was “largely unknown to Manchester Labour Students before winning the position of Manchester Metropolitan Co-Chair. It is unclear whether he ever attended an MLS meeting prior to winning the role.
“Tayyib says that the main reason he ran for Chair is to pass BDS policy [at MMU]. It is clear that he did not have our Labour values to heart when he did so.”
In a tweet on April 1, 2016, Nawaz said “the same victims of the Holocaust are now murdering and ethnically cleansing Palestinians…The irony”. At other times he makes comparisons between the Israeli state and the Nazis, and has posted such comments as “there were approximately 150,000 Jewish SS who personally were involved in the holocaust” and “Hitler was Jewish himself”. In April 2015 he seemed to make light of the Holocaust, tweeting: “Debating with an Israeli *Uses the Holocaust card* Automatic victory”.
In one tweet he appears to compare Israel to ISIS – “ISIS is not a democratic organisation like Israel but both murder civilians and claim their authority is from God”. In another, he says “Zionism is scum, even Einstein was against the Zionist terrorism which pressured the creation of israel”.
Labour Students societies across the country have faced scrutiny over alleged anti-Semitism in the past year; Oxford University Labour Club students were found to have engaged in anti-Semitic behaviour in a Labour inquiry launched after the high-profile resignation of their co-Chair, Alex Chalmers, who said members had “some kind of problem with Jews”.
Furthermore, groups on the political Left of politics have struggled with anti-Semitism. Last month the Labour Party was criticised for handing a one-year suspension, rather than total expulsion, to former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone after an interview in which he claimed Hitler “was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews”.
Nawaz also seems to have tweeted homophobic and anti-feminist statements, such as “Muslim feminism supporters? Muslim Gay rights activists? If my kids were any of these I’d slap them […]”.
In one tweet, posted on 24 July 2015, he uses a homophobic slur: “When you spell Gay wrong but your phone auto corrects it to Fag”.
Zak Deakin, also speaking before Nawaz’s resignation, said: “The tweets that have surfaced in the last few days are completely abhorrent. Tayyib’s views have no place in the Labour Party and the fact that they came from an individual who holds an elected role within our movement makes it even more sickening.
“I stood on a platform of tackling Anti-Semitism and so I’m incredibly dismayed and frustrated that I once again find myself having to make a statement in regards to this blatant racism: I can only apologise to Jewish students who have again had to be put through this.”
Leoni Benabú Morales, President of the Manchester Jewish Society (JSoc), also condemned the tweets, highlighting that Jewish students in MLS “have already raised concerns about his election and what that means with regards to the increasing number of Anti-Semitic incidents in the labour party”.
He added: “Claiming that Hitler himself is Jewish and comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is an insult and should not be tolerated from anyone, much less someone who is meant to represent our students. For us, it is of uttermost importance that Jewish students in Manchester feel safe, and we believe that this is a step backwards in achieving that. The JSoc will not stand for this kind of racist behaviour”.
Mo Ahmed, a former MMU Co-chair of MLS and current branch secretary of MMU Labour Students, said: “I think the tweets are abhorrent. People who tweet these kind of things have no place in the Labour Party. Antisemitism is one of the oldest kinds of racism in the world, it has no place in a left-of-centre party… Also these tweets, other than being disgusting and abhorrent, are against Labour Party rules too.”
President of the MMU Students’ Union, Lewis Bartlett, said: “These comments do not represent the views of the staff and/or officers at The Union, Manchester Metropolitan University.
“The Union has and will continue to be an open and inclusive space for all of our members. We have worked closely with UJS, NUS and other organisations to ensure discriminatory behaviour is unacceptable within our organisation, and that we have the resources in place to support all students and religious groups at our university.”