Malia Bouattia: ‘I’m not anti-semitic, I’ve been misunderstood’

She says people needs to ‘break down’ what she means

Malia Bouattia claims she doesn’t think she has said anything anti-semitic, defending herself as someone that’s just been misunderstood. The NUS President explained what she has said in the past was not anti-semitic, in an interview with The Guardian this weekend.

She said she her comments were not anti-semitic, but were in fact not fully understood. Talking to Decca Aitkenhead, after she had to delay the interview several times, she revealed how she’d dealt with being called anti-semitic.

“If my words are misinterpreted, then in the future I’ll take the time to make sure I break them down and explain them. It’s not about not saying it again, it’s about just breaking them down to explain what I meant.

“When Daily Mail articles are written, and quite racist, Islamophobic trolls come after you over social media, you’re very much reminded that people don’t feel you belong here.”

As NUS President, Malia has had a hard time convincing Jewish students that she isn’t anti-semitic. Following her election, Jewish societies across the country called on her to distance herself from the anti-zionist comments she has made in the past.

An open letter signed by 47 Jewish society Presidents cited her calling the University of Birmingham a “zionist-outpost”.

Explaining why she called the Birmingham a”zionist-outpost”, she says that, “This was a few years ago and I was talking about quite a particular context where there were a lot of activists that were very vocally supportive of the state of Israel and its actions.

“I was part of the Palestine society that, for most of the years that I was involved in it, was just trying to exist as a society let alone actually build solidarity, so it was because of that opposition, the constant tension and having disruptions for events that were taking place … you know, holding solidarity demonstrations and having opposing ones with Israeli flags flying, speakers being heckled.

“I wasn’t being critical of the number of Jewish students or the size of the Jewish society at Birmingham. It was very much in relation to the opposition to any kind of Palestine solidarity efforts that were taking place.”

Malia first came under criticism following her election as NUS President back in April, when a video emerged of her condemning “Zionist-led media outlets” at a Pro-Palestinian event held in September 2014. Another video, filmed as part of ‘Israeli-Apartheid Week’ saw Malia praise an anti-Israeli group’s resistance, saying “she draws strength from their struggle”.