NUS a ‘hostile environment’ for Jewish students, investigation finds

One student said: ‘I cannot express the full extent of my Jewish identity in NUS spaces’

A report into antisemitism has called the National Union of Students a “hostile environment” for Jewish students.

The NUS itself calls the independent report, by Rebecca Tuck KC, “a detailed and shocking account of antisemitism within the student movement”.

The report describes a “poor relationship more generally between Jewish students and NUS” and details the experiences of some Jewish students. One spoke about experiencing “numerous micro-aggressions” at an NUS event, and another said: “I cannot express the full extent of my Jewish identity in NUS spaces”.

Rebecca Tuck KC said: “The underlying reason for this poor relationship [between Jewish students and the NUS] stems from views about and attitudes towards Israel/Palestine”. You can read the report in full here.

Continuing, Tuck wrote: “When passionate advocacy and campaigning for Palestinian rights and condemnation of the policies or acts of the state of Israel are in issue, there has been considerable alienation of Jewish students”.

The union has pledged to take the report’s recommendations to “tackle antisemitism in all its forms across” the NUS. It has developed an action plan and is setting up an advisory panel to oversee this. “We must shine a light on the realities of antisemitism and be transparent in our reporting of progress”, it said.

The action plans includes permanent formal representation for Jewish students within a wider strategy of inclusion and liberation, including reinstating the NUS’ committee on anti-racism and anti-fascism, with dedicated representation for Jewish students. You can read the action plan in full here.

The report says the NUS, and students’ unions, have however identified and challenged far-right antisemitism, which it says “continues to be seen both on campuses and online”.

Tuck points to a specific example of a 2019 white t-shirt social at Leicester, where a student wore a shirt on a night out with “Hitler wanted my kind alive” written in pen across the back. Following this the university and SU banned white t-shirt socials, and the NUS issued a press release standing in solidarity with Jewish students and against antisemitism.

Last year, the NUS launched an investigation into claims of antisemitism within its own movement. Some of the allegations were thought to be against Shaima Dallali, who was the president-elect at the time, over historical social media posts. She was elected to lead the NUS from July for a two-year term, after being elected at the national conference in March.

Dallali was suspended as NUS president pending the outcome of the investigation, and sacked in November last year following its conclusion. In an interview with the Guardian, Dallali said she had already apologised unreservedly for the tweet saying: “I’m not the same person I was. I have developed my political language to talk about Palestine and Israel. I stand by that apology.” She added it was “absolutely not true” that she was hateful to the Jewish community and that her “door has always been open to all students regardless of who they are.” Following being sacked as NUS president, she said she was “considering all available legal remedies”.

The investigation into Dallali was separate to the investigation into the wider culture within the NUS and historic allegations of antisemitism, and Tuck’s subsequent report. The Jewish Chronicle reports this is the eighth report into NUS antisemitism since 2005.

Regarding the most recent investigation by Tuck, the NUS said: “There is no place for antisemitism within NUS and we are committed to ensuring that Jewish students feel safe and welcome in every corner of our movement. Antisemitism is an attack on our shared values of equality and solidarity. We have a proud history of fighting struggles alongside Jewish students. We must tackle antisemitism in all its forms with collective responsibility and in doing so restore our collective. We are stronger united.

“As we look to the future, our action plan will centre the voices of the Jewish students we are here to represent. However, it is essential that Jewish students alone are not expected to carry the burden of delivering change and identifying issues. We recognise that tackling antisemitism is the responsibility of everyone within NUS and across the Higher Education sector and therefore we will work in lockstep with others to bring about positive change.

“Whilst the independent investigation has come to its conclusion, we understand that this is an ongoing endeavour. We have rightly opened ourselves up to scrutiny and welcome the findings from the independent investigations. Our action plan is the next step towards earning and restoring trust with Jewish students and to ensuring they are able to feel safe and supported within NUS.”

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