Jewish Campus Leaders: Head of UK Student Umbrella Group’s Participation in Conference Backed by Hamas Apologist ‘Not Surprising,’ Given Her Anti-Israel Record
Jewish student leaders in Britain told The Algemeiner on Wednesday they were not surprised that the head of the UK’s umbrella student group spoke at a recent conference backed by an organization whose founder has “salute[d] Hamas for standing up to Israel.”
Elliot Miller — national organizer of anti-campus extremism group Student Rights and a fellow at the Henry Jackson Society — said it was to be expected that National Union of Students (NUS) President Malia Bouattia would participate in the Palestine Conference, partially organized by Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), due to her record of comments construed as antisemitic.
Miller — who recently penned an article slamming the NUS for its current anti-Israel stance — added, “Jewish students are no longer shocked when this happens. The important thing is to raise the awareness of the wider student movement and the public to these issues.”
Yos Tarshish, chairman of the World Union of Jewish Students, told The Algemeiner there was “nothing new” in Bouattia’s statement at the conference — that she is “proud to sit before you as NUS president, as well as a Palestine activist.”
“We know this,” he said. “But it is a travesty that students can’t feel comfortable affiliating with this group without feeling alienated by their views on Israel and the Jews.”
Tarshish also said Bouattia’s comments about “a clear attempt by the pro-Israel activists to turn the tide on our movement’s achievements” via a smear campaign are not a reflection of the NUS as a whole.
“It doesn’t really matter what Bouattia says or what NUS resources she promises to the anti-Israel movement, especially given the fact that she’s out of the presidency in a matter of months,” Tarshish said, referring to the NUS national conference scheduled for April, during which a new leader will be elected.
“It may take a few years, but the moderates will reclaim the NUS. It is an incredibly strong, century-old organization, and boasts really very democratic structures. With the shifts and flow of time, the normal people with moderate politics will regain their position,” he added.
Bouattia talked about the “real and new challenges” facing the “Palestine solidarity movement” during “Britain, Balfour: The Betrayal. What now?” — a panel discussion at the fourth annual Palestine Conference, held on Saturday at University College London.
An initiative of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies and Palestinian youth organization Olive, this year’s conference — focused on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration — included speeches by FOA’s Ismail Patel, Miko Peled, who has called Jews “sleazy thieves,” and Karl Sabbagh, a Palestinian-British writer and journalist who has blamed Israel for worldwide antisemitism.
A recent study revealed that harassment and assault of Jewish students and faculty in the UK nearly doubled last year, as The Algemeiner reported, and a parliamentary report slammed Bouattia for her “worrying disregard” of the problem.
Bouattia did not immediately respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.