EXCLUSIVE: VP Richard Brooks confirms NUS defintion of anti-Semitism
Brooks said the NUS take claims of anti-Semitism “incredibly seriously” but didn’t comment directly on the reaction to Malia Bouattia.
Just over a week ago, Malia Bouattia was elected NUS President on the slimmest of margins. She won with 50.9% support; just 44 more than Megan Dunn, last year’s President.
Over fifty JSOCs have condemned her election and campaigns for disaffiliation have gained strength at universities around the country, with Oxford confirming a referendum later this term.
A poll conducted by The Tab has shown 75% of students nationally wanting to leave the NUS. 85% of respondents to The Tab Cambridge’s poll wanted to disaffiliate, with nearly 40% asking why CUSU hadn’t left already.
The Tab spoke exclusively with Richard Brooks, the NUS Vice President for Union Development, about the organisation’s response to the concerns of Jewish students around the country.
While Richard Brooks can’t speak for Malia, he responded to claims that Malia Bouattia – and, by extension, the organisation she will lead in three months time – is anti-Semitic. In contrast to other disaffiliation movements such as NUSceptics, Boattia’s comments about “Zionist outposts” have been the central focus of the NUS: Let Cambridge Decide Campaign.
Brooks said the NUS take claims of anti-Semitism “incredibly seriously…Everyone absolutely acknowledges the fact that anti-Semitism, not just on campuses but in wider society, is a massive problem. ” He emphasised how “we’re doing a number of things to tackle that.”
Brooks cited his own close work with UJS (Union of Jewish Students) and JSOCs around the country, repeating prior acknowledgments of their “legitimate concerns.”.
He did not comment directly on the reaction to Malia Bouattia but simply said “officers and individuals are accountable for the comments they make, and Jewish students will decide whether or not those concerns are fulfilled”.
Brooks confirmed that the NUS subscribes to the EUMC’s definition of anti-Semitism. According to him, the NUS take it “incredibly seriously” and has complaints processes and a Code of Conduct for elected representatives who fail to adhere to the standards. The focus is primarily on making people feel “safe at NUS conferences.”
The NUS applies the EUMC (European Union Monitoring Centre) definition of anti-Semitism, which specifically says “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media” is anti-Semitic.
Malia Bouattia has, in the past, criticized “Zionist-led media outlets” and condemned any Israeli-Palestine peace talks as “strengthening the colonial projects.” She later defended these comments, saying “to take issue with Zionist politics is in no way me taking issue with being Jewish” and that her “political ideologies and beliefs remain unchanged.”
Jack May responded on behalf of NUS: Let Cambridge Decide. “Malia Bouattia ticks a worrying number of the EUMC’s boxes on what constitutes antisemitism, whether it is invoking tropes of media control or justifying violent resistance against Jews in Israel and Palestine,” he said.
“That the NUS has confirmed it follows the EUMC definition of anti-Semitism, but fails to recognise that comments made by Malia Bouattia in an official capacity as an NUS Officer constitute anti-Semitism by those same terms shows that it is unfit for purpose. If it cannot successfully identify anti-Semitic comments made by its own leader under its own definition, it cannot realistically claim to be a ‘leading exemplar of equality and diversity’.”
“As such, it’s time to let Cambridge decide whether or not to remain affiliated to the NUS in a referendum, and it’s up to college representatives to make sure that happens.”
CUSU Council will vote on Jack May’s motion for a referendum on disaffiliation on Monday evening.