After a representative from the National Union of Students (NUS) failed to attend a hearing of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, the controversial union is coming under fire on several fronts.
The Chair of the Committee, Robert Halfon MP, excoriated NUS for failing to send a representative to attend his hearing on Tuesday, particularly given that the hearing took place just days after a scandal involving the rapper Kareem Dennis, known as Lowkey, who was due to headline the union’s centenary conference. After initially dismissing the concerns of Jewish students, who pointed out the rapper’s inflammatory record, the union came under media scrutiny and eventually Mr Dennis withdraw from the event.
In an attempt at an apology, NUS grotesquely alleged that, “Whilst we welcome genuine political debate, we’ve been sad to see the use of harassment and misinformation against Lowkey.” Swiping at Mr Halfon, NUS has asserted that “MPs and education leaders are accountable to us not the other way round,” declared that “Old school bullying culture is never acceptable including at Government committees [sic],” and that “Elected student leaders aren’t required to take endless levels of abuse in their roles.”
Mr Halfon has expressed his deep dissatisfaction with NUS’s handling of this crisis and its record.
However, fresh revelations about NUS are prompting yet more concern.
An investigation by the Jewish News has concluded that “NUS leaders have quietly dropped a commitment to the International Definition of Antisemitism.” The investigation noted that the outgoing NUS President, Larissa Kennedy, ‘liked’ a tweet celebrating the passage of a resolution calling on Queen Mary University of London and its students’ union to adopt the Jerusalem Declaration, which is a wrecking document intended to undermine the globally-recognised Definition. It also observed that references to the Definition on the NUS website have all but disappeared, despite a statement by the union in 2020 declaring that “NUS is in full support of all efforts to tackle antisemitism and has adopted the [International] Definition of Antisemitism.”
The newspaper also claimed that Sara Khan, an ally of Ms Kennedy’s who was promoted to the new Vice-President Liberation and Equality position, allegedly posted on Twitter: “Is it kind of… antisemitic to homogenise all Jews into an ‘ethnoreligion’? like, both erasing Palestinian Jews, & letting white supremacist/settler Jews off the hook?” In a further post, she allegedly said that she “did some learning” and had concluded that “Judaism as an ethnoreligion refers to the shared heritage of all Jews as identity is passed down through maternal lineage but this is not the same as being a single ethnic group.” She then reportedly wondered: “Imagine thinking the billions of Muslims whether South Asian or Arabic or Eastern European were the same ethnic group. I can’t.” According to the report, Ms Khan also regularly spells “Israel” as “Isra*l”.
Ms Kennedy and Ms Khan allegedly also “played a leading role” in “facilitating” a launch event for last year’s online NUS Decolonialise Education campaign at which Mr Dennis delivered the keynote speech. The report points out numerous inflammatory aspects of this campaign.
Approached by the Jewish News for comment on the allegations in its report and for clarification on whether NUS was still committed to the International Definition of Antisemitism, a spokesperson for the union reportedly said: “Thanks for e-mailing. We won’t be commenting on this.”
Meanwhile, an NUS presidential candidate favoured to win the election to replace Ms Kennedy has been forced to apologise for tweeting the words of an antisemitic chant. Shaima Dallali tweeted the words ““Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud” in 2012.
The “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud” chant, translated in English as “Jews, remember the battle of Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning”, is a classic Arabic battle cry referencing the massacre and expulsion of the Jews of the town of Khaybar in northwestern Arabia, now Saudi Arabia, in the year 628 CE.
Ms Dallali, who is the President of the City University London students’ union, issued a statement yesterday, saying: “Earlier today I was made aware of a tweet I posted ten years ago. During Israel’s assault on Gaza I referenced the battle of Khaybar in which Jewish and Muslim armies fought. I was wrong to see the Palestine conflict as one between Muslims and Jews. The reference made as a teenager was unacceptable and I sincerely and unreservedly apologise.”
Last year, prior to Ms Dallali’s enture as President, City University students’ union organised a controversial campus-wide referendum on the International Definition of Antisemitism after reportedly failing to consult Jewish students.
These NUS scandals come after Campaign Against Antisemitism published polling earlier this month in its latest Antisemitism Barometer showing that a staggering 92% of British Jews believe that antisemitism in universities is a problem.
If any students are concerned about antisemitism on campus or need assistance, they can call us on 0330 822 0321, or e-mail [email protected].