Motion passed for Queen Mary SU to disaffiliate from NUS over ‘anti-Palestinian racism’

This follows NUS sacking previous president Shaima Dallali after antisemitism allegations

A motion has been passed at the Queen Mary Students’ Union for it to disaffiliate with the National Union of Students (NUS). 

Justifications given by the motion’s proposer include the NUS’s alleged contribution to “the spread of anti-Palestinian racism,” citing its recent dismissal of ex-president Shaima Dallali over claims of antisemitism.

The proposal claimed if the motion passes, it will “provide students a further means of having a democratic say in how the Union is organised and how our money is spent.” But this has been met with backlash from some students, with the QMUL Jewish and Israel Society (JSoc) saying it “disregards and ignores the lived experiences of Jewish and LGBTQ+ students.”

The SU confirmed with The London Tab that the motion was passed at its Annual Student Meeting last week with 167 votes for and 70 votes against.

The Annual Student Meeting on 28th November saw Queen Mary students presenting proposals for new SU policies in the form of motions, other students suggesting amendments and debating on them, and everyone voting for whether the motions should become official SU policies for the next two years. Results of these votes, however, are still subjected to review by the union’s Board of Trustees in their meeting on 8th December.

One of the motions last week called for the Queen Mary SU to disaffiliate with the NUS and its charity.

The motion’s proposer accused the national union of defying its “democratic nature” and contributing to “anti-Palestinian racism” by sacking Shaima Dallali, “its democratically elected President.”

Dallali was removed as the president after the NUS launched an investigation into claims of antisemitism within itself this April.

The ex-president had been embroiled in controversies over past actions, including a 2012 tweet that referenced a massacre of Jews and a video of them “harassing” people outside a KCL event hosting a former Israeli politician. 

Before the NUS announced its investigation, the government announced that it was cutting the NUS off from affiliation and funding until “systemic antisemitism” was addressed. The Tab was also passed an open letter addressed to the NUS that was signed by 70 members in March this year, which alleged Dallali “supported deeply homophobic and antisemitic remarks.”

Dallali had previously apologised for her past tweet and welcomed the investigation into allegations against her. She told The Tab at the time: “My hands are outstretched to all students that work in our movement, including Jewish students, and I have already expressed my willingness to arrange a meeting once I take office.”

But after being removed, she said through her lawyers that she “rejects the findings of the disciplinary panel” and is “considering all available legal remedies.”

Shaima Dallali was also the SU president at City, University of London (Credit: YouTube screenshot)

There have been mixed responses to Dallali’s dismissal.

The Union of Jewish Students said it “respects” the NUS’s decision but asserted that “antisemitism in the student movement goes beyond the actions of any one individual, and this case is a symptom of a wider problem.”

“Jewish students across the country will be asking how an individual deemed unfit for office by NUS was elected in the first place. We await the findings of the substantive inquiry into NUS’ treatment of Jewish students,” it said.

But some students did not receive the decision well, including the proposer of the motion for Queen Mary SU to disaffiliate from the NUS.

They argued in the proposal: “The NUS has long ignored calls from Muslim students, organisations and the representative Muslim student body Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) – who have said that NUS is no longer a safe space for Muslim students.

“This punitive reaction [sacking of Dallali] reflects a political context that has sought to toxify Palestine and is part of a wider pattern of endemic and systematic bigotry and prejudice.”

In addition, they argued the “high affiliation fees” the SU pays to the NUS should be “reinvested into the wider student experience,” particularly as the NUS has allegedly been “scaling back significantly on its activities and campaigns.”

Alongside another motion passed for the SU to endorse the Palestinian-led movement to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) institutions and companies associated with the Israeli government, the passing of the NUS disaffiliation motion has been met with opposition from Jewish students at the university.

The Queen Mary JSoc said before the meeting that they felt “deeply concerned and distressed” by “these divisive motions which directly impact Jewish students.”

They thought the motion to disaffiliate from the NUS “disregards and ignores the lived experiences of Jewish and LGBTQ+ students,” and the BDS motion would “foster unnecessary division” and “contribute to a hostile and uncomfortable environment for Jewish students at Queen Mary.”

After both motions passed, the society issued a joint statement with the Union of Jewish Students saying they were “disappointed yet unsurprised.” They further claimed that no amendments were made to these motions in the meeting “in spite of the repeated requests by Jewish students.”

The statement read: “Jewish students at QMUL have been clear throughout the debate that these motions would lead to an environment on campus which is hostile for Jewish students, leading to division and preventing the very measures needed for peace. They now feel betrayed and let down by their Students’ Union, with many Jewish students now feeling unsafe in their own Students’ Union which shrugs its shoulders at the expense of Jewish students.

“This environment in which Jewish student experiences are ignored and silenced cannot go on. If any students need support, they can reach out to Queen Mary JSoc or UJS at this time and always.”

The Queen Mary SU sent The London Tab the following statements about the motions:

“At a quorate Annual Members Meeting held on 28th November, members present voted on a motion asking whether the Students’ Union should disaffiliate from the National union of Students.

The vote was as follows: In Favour: 167, Against: 70, Abstentions: 19. The quorum for the meeting was 120 members, and so the vote was passed. The Union’s Board of Trustees will now review the result at their meeting on 8th December and outline next steps in due course.

“At a quorate Annual Members Meeting held on 28th November, members present voted on a motion asking whether Queen Mary University of London should  support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement?

The vote was as follows: In Favour: 150, Against: 38, Abstentions: 17. The quorum for the meeting was 120 members, and so the vote was passed. The Union’s Board of Trustees will now review the result at their meeting on 8 December and outline next steps in due course.”

Regarding the comments of the JScoc, they told The London Tab they are addressing the issues internally.

The National Union of Students told The London Tab they do not comment on SU disaffiliations.

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