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January 13, 2023 2:15 pm
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‘Shocking Indictment’: New Report Finds Pervasive Antisemitism in UK National Union of Students

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avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Illustrative Anti-Israel protest in London in June 2021. Credit: Loredana Sangiuliano/Shutterstock.

Jewish student members of the National Union of Students (NUS), which represents over seven million university students in the UK, have experienced antisemitism from the organization’s left-wing pro-Palestinian activists, according to a new report.

The report, released on Thursday and commissioned by the NUS, claims that a fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the organization has caused “considerable alienation of Jewish students” as well as antisemitism that was never properly addressed by its leaders.

“The antisemitism which has been experienced has not been limited to Israeli-related examples such as holding Jewish students responsible for the acts of the Israeli state or comparing Israeli policy to Nazism, but has also seen the employing of ancient antisemitic tropes, from blood libels to Rothschild conspiracies,” the report, written by independent lawyer Rebecca Tuck said.

NUS has long been dogged by accusations of prevalent antisemitism throughout its organizing structure.

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In November NUS removed president Shaima Dallali after finding her guilty of antisemitism and other misconduct. In announcing the removal, the first in the organization’s 100 year history, NUS apologized for “the harm that has been caused” and pledged to “rebuild the NUS in an inclusive way — fighting for all students as we have done for the past 100 years.”

Dallali’s tenure at NUS teemed with controversy ever since Jewish student rights groups discovered tweets in which she called Hamas critics “Dirty Zionists” and quoted the battle cry, “Khaybar, Khaybar o Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,” a reference to the Battle of Khaybar in 628 that resulted in a massacre of Jews.

Dallali has also praised the extremist Islamic preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who supports Palestinian suicide bombers and is banned from visiting four western countries and regarded as a terrorist by several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates.

Prior to the Dallali’s firing, the UK government suspended its relations with NUS and cut its funding.

The report cited dozens of examples of antisemitic incidents alleged by Jewish students, many of which occurred at NUS conferences. Students reported incitement of violence against Israeli civilians, the spreading of conspiracy theories about Mossad’s rumored role in the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), and opposition to a motion proposing observance of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Tuck also noted that a core principle of NUS’ progressive culture is the idea that minority groups “define the terms of their oppression,” making it less likely that choosing not to use the IHRA definition, which NUS adopted in 2017, will improve the organization’s relationship with Jewish students going forward. She also acknowledged that “Zionist” is used as a slur in place of “Jew”, with the “insult or discriminatory message still being administered.”

The report recommended exhaustive vetting of candidates for office, antisemitism training, and the hiring of a “facilitator” to mediate conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a subject she anticipates “will be the subject of student activism, as has been the case for decades.”

“The conclusion of the report is clear: for the past 17 years NUS has systematically created an environment that was hostile to Jewish students and it continuously ignored any calls for action,” the European Jewish Union of Students said in a statement on Thursday. “Now, we call on the National Union of Students to implement the changes and recommendations outlined in the report, and to continue working with UJS to ensure that Jewish students feel included and welcomed in the student movement.”

Another nonprofit, the Community Security Trust, based in Jerusalem, described Tuck’s report as a “shocking indictment of NUS. It is time for NUS to force antisemitism out of its movement once and for all.”

Follow reporter Dion J. Pierre at @DionJPierre.

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