The National Union of Students’ (NUS) conference kicks off in Brighton today, with the accompanying electoral processes dogged by antisemitism allegations against Malia Bouattia, who is running for NUS President.
On Thursday, Student Rights detailed how a number of student Jewish Society members had raised questions about Bouattia’s ability to represent them, as well as covering her past links to extremists.
Since then, students have hit back at Bouattia’s response to their open letter, with a letter written by Daniel Clements, President of the Jewish Society at the University of Birmingham taking issue with her implication that his original open letter was opportunistic.
While Bouattia made clear in her response that she does not have a relationship “in any shape or form” with MPACUK or its spokesperson Raza Nadim, Clements also urges her to write to Nadim rejecting his endorsement.
This, he believes, would reassure Jewish students, particularly as Nadim has since labelled criticism of Bouattia as evidence of “the power of the Zio lobby”.
Bouattia’s response also stressed that her criticism of “Zionist politics” is not the same as her “taking issue with being Jewish”, a distinction that many of her critics share.
However, the latest letter questioned why she felt it necessary to complain about the size of Birmingham University’s Jewish society in the first place.
Clements’ letter also criticises the way Bouattia has linked “Zionist lobbies” with the government’s counter-extremism strategy, Prevent, arguing that such rhetoric, despite being cloaked by terms like ‘Zionism’, promotes the idea of a “pervasive and all-controlling Jewish lobby”.
His letter goes onto say:
“You must be aware that classic antisemitic tropes manifest themselves today itself in anti-Zionist terms. Indeed, at one event that you spoke at, you shared a platform with a speaker who reinvented the classic antisemitic blood libel by claiming that Israel harvests Palestinian organs. At the same event that you claimed there is a “Zionist-led” media in your defence of violent Palestinian resistance.Your response that you make no link between Zionist policies and Jewish people is undermined by the regurgitation of antisemitic tropes in your rhetoric. The notion of ‘Zionist lobbies’ and a ‘Zionist-led media’ is not indicative of an intelligent critique of an ideological position; it is reminiscent of the age-old antisemitic idea of Jewish power and Jewish control.”
Another letter, written by students from a number of London universities, highlights how widespread these concerns have become and the need for Bouattia to respond to these unanswered questions.
The fact that a number of Jewish students have no faith in Bouattia’s ability to tackle antisemitism is deeply worrying and an indictment of somebody who seeks to represent the wider student movement.
Students have stated that Bouattia will have to answer the questions raised despite her statements, and we hope these issues will be addressed at the NUS candidates’ hustings this evening.