UEA Welfare Officer votes against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day

All of our other representatives were in favour

UEA Welfare, Community and Diversity Officer, Jo Swo, voted against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. 

The motion, which was voted on at the NUS Conference last week, sought to have Holocaust Memorial Day officially commemorated by the NUS.

Jo Swo was the only UEA representative to vote against the motion.

Lucy Auger and current Activities and Opportunities Officer Yinbo Yu chose to abstain from the vote.

Liam McCafferty, the current Postgraduate Officer and Chris Jarvis, the current Campaigns and Democracy Officer voted in favour of it.

Earlier in proceedings Liam had chosen to abstain from voting on a motion that sought to combat antisemitism on campuses.

Jo Swo said: “My vote on the motion was very personal and difficult, but I want to be very clear – I am not against remembering the Holocaust.

“I grew up as the grandchild of four Holocaust survivors and on both sides of my family my grandparents were involved in the atrocities that took place in Eastern Europe. Not only does grouping together genocides under an umbrella day of ‘remembrance’ not sit well with me personally, but I also want an NUS that takes action- fighting against mass deportations of international students, fighting the closure of 7 detention centres in the UK, and fighting the PREVENT agenda and its Islamophobic rhetoric.

“Put simply I was asked to vote for a motion so that ‘the holocaust never happens again’, but in my view it is not enough to remember, we have to act.”

However, others have criticised Jo’s decision claiming that the motion wanted to provide education as well as commemoration.

Liron Velleman, incoming Campaigns Officer for the Union of Jewish Students said: “The motion itself goes wider than just remembering the Holocaust and talks about providing Holocaust education to sabbatical officers and to provide educational resources for student unions. It is vital that if we are serious about saying ‘never again’ should atrocities like this happen, we should support motions like this which will enable student unions to teach about the Holocaust, subsequent genocides and their causes.

“I find it shocking that someone, especially someone who holds elected office representing students, would vote down these measures for these commemorative and educational events to take place and it does make me wonder what will it take for people in the student movement to take Jewish students and antisemitism seriously when they can’t even commemorate the death of six million Jews.”

The vote took place at the same conference which saw the controversial election of new NUS President Malia Bouattia. Malia has been accused of antisemitism after an article in which she called the University of Birmingham a “zionist outpost” came to light.