Damning report details antisemitism within NUS

Incidents including a student leader using the words ‘the final solution’ left Jewish students feeling like ‘pariahs’ within the UK student body

一月 12, 2023
Source: iStock

The UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) has not been a welcoming place for Jewish people for “at least a decade”, according to an independent report that identifies numerous incidents of antisemitism within the organisation.

Rebecca Tuck KC’s investigation into the national body found that students were subjected to “harassment” and “discriminatory stereotyping” because they were Jewish, contrary to the NUS’ obligations under the Equality Act and its own code of conduct.

The NUS has long been dogged by accusations of hostility towards Jewish students, culminating in the Westminster government suspending all relations with it and the sacking of its president last year. It has pledged to implement the recommendations contained in the report in full.

In one incident, Ms Tuck describes how a member of the national executive committee was heard using the words “the final solution” at a meeting about Jewish representation on a committee, and then refusing to retract the statement despite the connotations to the Holocaust being pointed out.

“Jewish students attending NUS conferences have felt unwelcome and on occasion even afraid for their physical safety,” says the report – based on interviews with 50 individuals and groups.

It details how Jewish students’ experiences left them “personally shaking and almost in tears” and in “a state of significant distress”.

“Numerous accounts have been given to me of students being identified as ‘a Jew’, then being treated as a pariah at NUS events – subject to rooms ‘going quiet’ when they walk in, conversations abruptly ceasing, being whispered about and stared at,” Ms Tuck writes.

At a “liberation conference” in 2022, a rapper known as Lowkey was invited to perform despite concerns raised by Jewish students about his comments about 9/11 conspiracy theories and the fact he had said the Jewish heritage of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was being “weaponised”.

Before Lowkey withdrew from the event, NUS officers suggested that students who objected to the performance avoid it by sitting in another room, comments that were “entirely inappropriate and unsatisfactory”, Ms Tuck writes.

Statements made by NUS officers and candidates for election that were perceived as hostile by Jewish students often stemmed from their pro-Palestinian advocacy, which, on occasion, “crossed the line and amounted to antisemitism”, the report says.

NUS called the findings a “detailed and shocking account of antisemitism within the student movement” and published an action plan covering five key areas of work where it planned to change.

However, the Tuck report points out that the findings of previous investigations into antisemitism within NUS had mostly been ignored, in part because of its “short institutional memory”, with key documents deleted within a short time frame.

Reacting to the report’s publication, Joel Rosen, the president of the Union of Jewish Students, said that it “set out in granular detail how NUS has failed generations of Jewish students”.

“It is a searing indictment of anti-Jewish racism at the heart of student politics. It confirms that Jewish students faced harassment and discrimination and that complaints of antisemitism were dismissed and disregarded,” he added, while calling for the findings to be translated into “meaningful and immediate action”.

The NUS said it was “committed to ensuring that Jewish students feel safe and welcome in every corner of our movement”.

Among the actions it has pledged to carry out include reinstating Jewish representation on key committees, training for staff and elected officials and introducing an external speakers policy. This will be overseen by a new advisory panel for the next five years.

Ms Tuck writes that she hopes her recommendations will “move debates about Israel/Palestine in a more nuanced, respectful direction, and that in turn this will make NUS a less hostile environment for Jews – and hopefully – eventually even a welcoming one”.




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Reader's comments (1)

Will anything change? I doubt it. This seems to be an ongoing problem in the NUS. Fine words, but no action. Disgraceful.