British-Jewish Campus Activist Co-Sponsors Motion to Sever Ties With UK’s Leading Student Union Over President’s Failure to Address, Acknowledge Antisemitism
British-Jewish students are “fed up with taking a soft approach” towards the controversial head of the country’s largest student union and are now taking steps to sever ties with the organization, a leader of the effort told The Algemeiner on Tuesday.
Binyomin Gilbert, president of Goldsmiths, University of London’s Jewish Society, was referring to a motion he is co-sponsoring at the upcoming Union of Jewish Students (UJS) national conference, which seeks to officially split with the National Union of Students (NUS) over what he says is the failure of its president, Malia Bouattia, “to address her antisemitic rhetoric” and her “continual dismissal of our concerns.”
“We have had enough of her victim-blaming. This is a reluctant, difficult step but so far, there seems to be a general agreement among Jewish students that we have gone as far as we can when it comes to Bouattia,” he told The Algemeiner.
The NUS president has had various opportunities to “clarify and apologize for certain antisemitic comments she made,” and outline how she is personally working to uphold and enforce NUS policy on antisemitism, Gilbert said.
Instead, he continued, Bouattia has repeatedly deflected by accusing Jewish students of “misunderstanding” her. With the upcoming UJS motion, Gilbert said, he hopes “Bouattia realizes now that she must actually take the time to understand the worries centered on her.”
As The Algemeiner has extensively reported, Bouattia has faced widespread allegations of antisemitism, due to her past comments, which included calling the University of Birmingham a “Zionist outpost” with the “largest [Jewish Society] in the country,” and for applying double standards to Jews where racism is concerned.
In an op-ed in the Huffington Post UK on Monday, UJS President Josh Seitler expressed regret for having had faith in Bouattia’s sincerity about her intentions to repair frayed relations with Jews on campus. Seitler said that in an atmosphere of increasing antisemitism and antisemitic anti-Zionism, Bouattia’s “words and deeds fuel this menacing situation,” which, he said, is “a matter of life or death” for some Jewish students.
Bouattia’s behavior has even caught the attention of British lawmakers. As The Algemeiner reported, the NUS president was sharply criticized in an October parliamentary report for continually dismissing and even undermining efforts to combat antisemitism on campus. The report spurred calls for her immediate resignation.
The motion to cut ties with the NUS will be put to a vote this Sunday. Jewish students will also find out the identity of the next UJS president, following a highly contentious election, in which one of the three candidates running is a radical anti-Israel activist who hails from the Jewish state.