Candidate for NUS President ‘Very Hopeful’ Organization Will ‘Reject Voices of Hate,’ After Further ‘Horrific Revelations’ of Student Representatives Writing ‘Heil Hitler’ Online
A candidate running for president of Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS) told The Algemeiner on Tuesday he was “very hopeful…we will stand with Jewish students and reject these voices of hate,” after exposure of student delegates writing “Heil Hitler,” among other comments, online.
Tom Harwood — a Durham University student who has repeatedly criticized the NUS for its attitude toward Israel and Jews — said, “These horrific revelations are becoming an all too common feature of NUS life. It is clear that there is an institutional problem and NUS has to wake up to it.”
Harwood was referring to the social media activity dating back some five years of three candidates holding or running for positions on the NUS executive council, which The Independent revealed earlier on Tuesday, the first day of the NUS’s national conference.
The messages include Sean O’Neill’s 2012 Twitter post using the hashtags “heilhitler” and “fuckslutskilljews,” though he told The Independent he had “no recollection” of writing these comments and “can only assume it was an incredibly distasteful inside joke.” That same year, NUS LGBT+ Officer Noorulann Shahid shared a video that includes tropes of Jews being stingy and having big noses. Shahid has “sincerely and unreservedly apologize[d].”
These revelations follow the exposure earlier this month of posts from Ali Milani — currently running to be vice president for union development — who wrote Israel had “no right to exist” and was “a land built on ethnic cleansing and colonialism.” He has also apologized, amid calls for him to end his campaign.
The Independent also reported that while current NUS President Malia Bouattia was a student at the University of Birmingham — which she once called a “Zionist outpost” due to its large Jewish population — she was involved in organizing a play titled, “Seven Jewish Children,” which purportedly is about Israeli policies but does include Israel, Israelis, Zionism or Zionist, though it makes some half-dozen references to “jews.”
Bouattia — who was condemned late last year by the government’s House Affairs Select Committee for “failing to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism on campus” — is currently up for reelection.
UK Jewish student leaders have responded to these revelations with a mixture of frustration and anger.
Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, wrote on Twitter, “It kills me to see our union like this.” She also remarked that it was “unforgivable” Jewish students had tweeted they “genuinely feel unsafe” attending the conference together with the people named in the report.
The Pinsker Centre, a Zionist student education group, has labeled the NUS “increasingly extreme.”
“It’s clear to all that the NUS, both as an institution and insofar that it represents a political culture, is permeated with antisemitic activity and discourse,” it said in a statement to The Algemeiner.
Josh Nagli, campaigns director at the Union of Jewish Students, has called for all those who have been found to have made antisemitic comments online to step down immediately.
“The regularity of anti-Semitic comments being made by candidates is exceptionally worrisome and shows complete disregard for the welfare of Jewish students, as well as for the anti-racist, anti-fascist values that NUS and many of these individuals claim to uphold — particularly when those comments invoke the memory of the Holocaust,” he said.
According to students at the NUS national conference, Bouattia made no mention of the issue of antisemitism within the NUS during her opening remarks.