The independent investigation into anti-Semitism within the National Union of Students (NUS) has concluded that “the culture within NUS and at NUS events has been perceived by many Jewish students, for good reason, as hostile.” Going forward the NUS has announced a 5-point action plan.
The NUS commissioned Rebecca Tuck KC to lead an independent investigation in May 2022. The report states that in NUS spaces, all Jewish students seem to be “answerable for Israel”, suggesting the growing tensions between Israel and Palestine as one of the reasoning for rampant antisemitism.
The report adds that there are many instances “where Jewish students have suffered antisemitism because of assumptions that they are ‘Zionists’.”
Furthermore, students who made complaints about this were said to be acting in “bad faith,” and opposing “pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli political advocacy.” This was evidenced at the NUS conference, such as the Liverpool conference on March 28 2022.
On March 3, it was announced that Lowkey, a rapper and activist, would be performing at the conference. The report says that NUS did not carry out ‘due diligence’ before inviting Lowkey. The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) wrote to NUS raising concerns over Lowkey.
The UJS stated that the rapper has often endorsed individuals who are anti-Semitic and that he pedals conspiracy theories on 9/11. The former NUS President advertised availability of alternative spaces “to enable Jewish students to avoid the performance”, making them feel excluded and segregated.
This was not isolated; a 2017 Jewish Student Experience Survey found that 49% of surveyed students disagreed that they would feel comfortable attending NUS events.
With a difficult path to concluding this grievance, in April 2022 UJS asked NUS to conduct this investigation. The UJS press release questioned, “whether Shaima Dallali (former President of NUS) is fit to represent all students.”
The report includes several other examples of antisemitism on campus, such as:
- A Jewish student not being allowed to use a prayer room because it was being used for a meeting
- “The refusal of an NEC member to apologise for referring to ‘the final solution’ in the context of Jewish places on a committee, even when faced with an explanation as to why the term caused such offence”
- A student at an NUS event was told to enjoy “dead baby’s blood” in reference to their drink, which the student claims was because of the West bank protests
- First year Jewish students had swastikas drawn on them during ‘white T-Shirt parties’ in Leicester
The report concludes by stating: “passionate advocacy and campaigning for Palestinian rights,” has sometimes led to, “considerable alienation of Jewish students.”
President of the UJS, Joel Rosen, told the BBC that the report was a “very damning indictment of the presence of anti-Jewish racism at the heart of student politics”.
“But what we’ve seen is this kind of stereotyping that the report lays out,” he adds. Joel previously told the BBC that NUS has “abandoned proud anti-racist traditions.”
All this has previously led to the government cutting ties all together with the NUS. In November 2022, Dallali was dismissed from her post due to allegations of antisemitism.
Going forward, the NUS has set out a 5-point action plan, ranging from a more enhanced candidate selection process to increasing education on the topic.
They will also be implementing an advisory panel for a minimum of 5 years and training elected leaders and NUS staff. The NUS have also added an associate membership for UJS members.