British Jewish Student Leader Voices Regret for Accepting ‘Remorse’ of ‘Antisemitic’ President of National Union
The head of the UK’s Union of Jewish Students expressed regret on Monday for having had faith in the sincerity of the woman running the leading umbrella organization for students across Britain.
In an op-ed published by Huffington Post UK, Josh Seitler said he couldn’t believe “how wrong [he] was” to have been persuaded that National Union of Students (NUS) President Malia Bouattia genuinely intended to repair relations with Jews on campus.
Seitler wrote that, during a meeting he held with her last month aimed at “rebuilding trust,” Bouattia appeared “remorseful” after listening to his explanation of “why Jewish students are angry and frustrated,” and consider her previous comments — such as those made in a 2011 article in which she referred to the University of Birmingham as a “Zionist outpost” with the “largest [Jewish Society] in the country” — antisemitic.
However, he said, her own account of the meeting indicated that she had not reconsidered at all. “Malia once again placed the blame back on Jewish students, suggesting that their anger was misplaced or invalid,” he wrote. “She expressed regret that her words had been ‘interpreted’ as antisemitic. She apologized for having ‘caused offense.’ Nowhere did she apologize for what she had said, or acknowledge that only Jewish students can define antisemitism.”
This, wrote Seitler, displays a “distinct lack of respect for Jewish students’ multifaceted identities” on Bouattia’s part, as she “fails to understand, accept or acknowledge — despite many Jewish students trying to tell her, time and time again — …that…their identities are inextricably linked with Israel.”
Seitler said that in an atmosphere of increasing antisemitism and antisemitic anti-Zionism on UK campuses, Bouattia’s “words and deeds fuel this menacing situation,” which, he said, is “a matter of life or death” for some Jewish students.
Seitler’s article appeared ahead of a vote by the Union of Jewish Students on Sunday to decide whether to sever ties with the NUS over Bouattia’s behavior.
Bouattia, as The Algemeiner reported, was criticized in September after she acknowledged in an interview with the Guardian that she applies double standards to Jews where racism is concerned. A few weeks later, she passed over another opportunity to apologize for her anti-Zionist comments, arguing that they were taken out of their political context.
In October, a parliamentary report on the state of antisemitism in the UK criticized Bouattia for continually dismissing and even undermining efforts to combat antisemitism on campus. The report spurred calls for her immediate resignation.