An internal report for the National Union of Students has found that its President, Malia Bouattia, has made antisemitic comments but must face no action whatsoever as a consequence.
The report is the result of a two-month inquiry launched to ascertain whether Bouattia is an antisemite. Finding that Bouattia made comments that “could be reasonably capable of being interpreted as antisemitic”, the report recommended that no disciplinary action be taken. Instead, Professor Carol Baxter, the NHS’s former equality chief who authored the report, proposed that Bouattia should apologise instead and escape any further consequence.
Professor Baxter wrote that Bouattia had been “genuine in expressing her regret”, had “considered the impact of what she says” and had denounced antisemitism, ruling: “in light of the above mitigating circumstances no further action should be taken within the NUS disciplinary process.”
Bouattia has previously called Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost in higher education” because it has “the largest Jsoc [Jewish student society] in the country.” She has railed against “Zionist-led media outlets”, defended Palestinian terrorism as “resistance” and voted against condemning ISIS. When called on by Campaign Against Antisemitism and countless student leaders to retract her comments, she penned an article in The Guardian claiming that her accusers were simply sexists and racists. Bouattia since refused to confirm that Israel has a right to even exist, and told an audience at the School of Oriental and African Studies that the government’s anti-terrorism strategy is led by “Zionist and neo-con lobbies”. Last July Bouattia drew further condemnation when she used her casting vote to strip Jewish students of their ability to elect their own representative.
Student leaders have gone so far as to write open letters expressing embarrassment and apologising to Jewish students for the actions of Bouattia and the National Union of Students. The Union of Jewish Students has called for her resignation, as have other student groups including Oxford University Students’ Union. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Rise of Antisemitism in Britain strongly criticised her.
It had been hoped that the report might redress the situation, but following the leaking of the report to The Telegraph, the report has been branded a “disgrace” and a “Labour-style stitch-up”.
This is the second time that Bouattia has been found to have made antisemitic remarks, the first time being in 2014 whilst she was serving as the salaried Black Students’ Officer.
The report now goes before the board of NUS which may decide to ask her to step down, however the reaction from NUS has been far from contrite with a spokesman trying to dismiss the report as a sexist, Islamophobic media conspiracy: “Malia has addressed the accusations of antisemitism numerous times since her election last year, including in the Sunday Times in April, the Huffington Post in October, and in writing to the 560 NUS-affiliated further and higher education students’ unions in December. The resuscitation of this story in the media is part of a sustained attack on a high-profile Muslim woman in a public position. Her family has been harassed and she is the subject of regular and serious threats. These attacks not only put her personal safety at risk but are part of a dangerous trend that deter under-represented groups from taking part in public life.”
Despite the report being issued to Bouattia several weeks ago, she has made no apology.
Gideon Falter, Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “NUS has shown a disregard for Jewish students that is utterly shameful. This is the second time that Malia Bouattia has been found by an NUS inquiry to have made antisemitic remarks, yet NUS plans to do nothing about it. Instead of acting on the concerns of Jewish and non-Jewish student leaders whose allegations even this whitewash inquiry has partially accepted, NUS has disgraced itself further by charging that accusations of antisemitism against Malia Bouattia are simply a sexist, Islamophobic plot. Previously the problem lay squarely with Malia Bouattia, but this is the NUS’s last stand. If the board of NUS takes no action, then the problem is with NUS as a whole.”