Over the weekend, a feature in the Guardian examined how UK universities have been “urged to tackle [a] rising tide of antisemitism on campus”, interviewing students and documenting the spate of anti-Semitic graffiti previously reported by Student Rights.
The piece included a quote from the National Union of Students (NUS) president, Malia Bouattia, in which she stated that “blatant antisemitism should not be tolerated in our universities and colleges, and institutions need to do more to combat it.”
However, the day before this piece was published, the Telegraph had reported that Bouattia would not face punishment despite having made comments which “could be reasonably capable of being interpreted as anti-Semitic”.
The findings of a leaked internal report into her comments about “Zionist and neo-con lobbies” chaired by Professor Carol Baxter, former head of equality, diversity and human rights at the NHS, the report further suggested Bouattia should apologise rather than step down.
While the report claimed Bouattia had been “genuine in expressing her regret”, the statement released by the NUS in response to the Telegraph story suggested the group’s leadership still don’t take this seriously.
Instead of any apology, the group claimed that “Malia has addressed the accusations of antisemitismnumerous times since her election last year”, and made the outrageous claim that “…the resuscitation of this story in the media is part of a sustained attack on a high-profile Muslim woman.”
Seeking to smear as bigoted those reporting on the NUS president having been found to have made comments which could be interpreted as anti-Semitic certainly does not suggest contrition, and students are right to be worried that their concerns have not been dealt with adequately.
Here at Student Rights, we have repeatedly criticised Bouattia and the NUS’defensiveness and failures to take the concerns of Jewish students seriously, and stand by our view that Bouattia’sassurances on anti-Semitism will continue to be viewed with scepticism until this attitude changes.