Politics

Ex-presidents of NUS warn student body it must address antisemitism concerns | Antisemitism

More than 20 former presidents of the National Union of Students, together with three former cupboard ministers, have despatched an unprecedented personal warning to the organisation’s trustees, warning them to address concerns from Jewish college students.

The letter, which has been leaked to the Guardian, was despatched to the union’s trustees by 21 former presidents courting again to the Nineteen Sixties, together with the previous cupboard ministers Jack Straw, Charles Clarke and Jim Murphy, the shadow well being secretary, Wes Streeting, and Maeve Sherlock.

“This is not just a matter of protecting NUS’s reputation, but honouring NUS’s proud anti-racist principles,” the letter mentioned.

Others embody the Sky News presenter Trevor Phillips, the Times columnist David Aaronovitch and former Labour MPs Lorna Fitzsimons, Stephen Twigg and Phil Woolas, in addition to Shakira Martin, the primary black lady to guide the NUS.

New concerns had been raised by Jewish college students after the union invited the rapper Lowkey to a centenary occasion, after he mentioned the media had “weaponised the Jewish heritage of [Ukrainian president] Zelenskyy” to be able to ignore alleged far-right exercise in Ukraine.

Students who raised objections mentioned they had been instructed they might keep away in a protected house throughout his efficiency, although the NUS has denied options they had been segregated. Lowkey pulled out of the occasion amid the controversy.

Complaints had been additionally made by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) about feedback by the union’s president-elect, Shaima Dallali, together with a put up from when she was a younger teenager, which learn: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza”, referencing a 628 bloodbath. She has since apologised for the put up. Other social media posts are being investigated by the NUS board.

The letter was revealed because the NUS board referred to as a disaster meeting for Wednesday over the row. MP Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the training choose committee, mentioned he had referred the NUS to the Charity Commission over the problem.

The larger training minister Michelle Donelan final week mentioned she was additionally contemplating reporting the NUS to the fee, and that the federal government might droop engagement with the union over the allegations. Donelan additionally referred to as on student unions throughout the nation to “consider disaffiliation, unless matters improve quickly”.

In response to Halfon and Donelan’s criticism, the union mentioned: “NUS is taking antisemitism allegations seriously. There is no place for antisemitism within the student movement. We have unreservedly apologised for the concern and worry caused in recent weeks, and are working to address any wrongdoing and rebuild trust.

“The board are meeting to instigate our robust internal procedures including considering appointing an independent external party to support with this. If we find that action needs to be taken we won’t hesitate to take it, as we have previously.”

The leaked letter to the present NUS president, Larissa Kennedy, in addition to the trustees, mentioned there was an pressing must take the complaints extra critically.

“We are writing to you privately as former presidents with serious concerns about antisemitism, the safety and treatment of Jewish students at NUS events and within your democracy, and the way in which NUS is responding to these concerns,” the letter mentioned. The letter mentioned it was “clear NUS has a serious and significant problem”.

The former presidents mentioned NUS ought to situation “a full and unreserved apology” resolving to rebuild relationships with UJS and Jewish college students and launching an impartial investigation into antisemitism throughout the organisation, together with statements and tweets made by present and incoming officers.

“We hope that the trustees understand the gravity of the crisis facing the organisation, the reputational damage it is suffering, and the potentially existential threat that de-recognition of NUS poses to the future of the organisation – and your responsibility to act,” the letter mentioned.

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