NUS delegate’s rant shows wider problem in student movement

Daniel Yahia, a student at the University of Edinburgh elected as a National Union of Students (NUS) delegate, has been accused of using antisemitic language on his Facebook page

When discussing Nir Bitton, an Israeli footballer who plays for Celtic, Mr Yahia wrote:

“Sick of seeing Celtic fans creaming themselves over Nir Bitton. We are a club open to all, that cannot be disputed, but by all, we mean humans, of difference creeds, races and religions. Zionists are subhuman and, Nir Bitton is a filthy, Zionist rat. Get him as far to fuck from our club as possible. If you’re gonna wave your Palestinian flag, don’t be a hypocrite and demand this bastard takes his place on the team.”

In response to a comment saying Bitton should be gassed, Yahia replied that this would “be too good for him”.

The Tab has since published Yahia’s response, in which he wrote:

“I did not pick out Bitton for his religion once, nor his nationality. Though my words were intemperate and perhaps a little much, they were not racist. My friend Podge’s comments of gassing him, as is slang in Belfast means to sack/fire, though the context of the status do mean it was inappropriate.…I have no problems with Jews or Israelis, just Zionists.”

Yahia went on to suggest those outraged by his remarks were merely providing cover for the Israeli government and used another antisemitic trope, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, saying:

“Using anti-Semitism as a response for hiding the crimes of the Israel government is disgusting. Einstein once said he would hate to see the Israelis do to the Palestinians what the Nazis done to the Jews, and that has happened”.

Yahia does not appear to have taken up his post as a delegate to the NUS, and a spokesperson for the group said Yahia’s comments were “utterly contemptible” and had no place in the student movement.

While Student Rights welcomes these words, Yahia’s remarks sadly cannot be seen as a one-off.

In just the last week, we have seen two examples of material posted on student society Facebook pages asserting a global Zionist conspiracy.

A post shared on the University of Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group page said “the UK government is controlled by Zionists”, while another from Middlesex University’s Global South Solidarity Society claimed US Presidents “obey what their Zionist bosses want”.

Such claims regurgitate old antisemitic myths of Jewish influence, yet this conspiratorial language is used frequently on student society social media, with a Student Rights briefing in March finding posts complaining British politicians are “on the Jewish payroll”; that Jews control the majority of “western media”; and that Israel is “illegally harvesting organs”.

Meanwhile, Baroness Royall’s report on antisemitism within the Oxford University Labour Club (OULC) found there had been “incidents of antisemitic behaviour” within the club.

It is clear more must be done to challenge the prevalence of such attitudes on our campuses, starting with the student movement led by the NUS accepting there is a serious problem which needs to be dealt with.

While the NUS may criticise Daniel Yahia’s comments, the group has failed to deal with the increased marginalisation of Jewish students, and this case, alongside the recent decision to deny Jewish students the opportunity to pick a representative to the NUS anti-racism campaign, shows there is still a long way to go.

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