After Malia, should Jewish students leave the NUS?


By Joseph Stoll and Jonathan Hunter

● The Jewish community understandably lamented the "shock" result of last week's National Union Students presidential election. Yet far from being unexpected, Malia Bouattia's victory is the predictable consequence of a movement which has long tolerated ideas hostile to Jews.

The NUS of 2016, after all, is the same movement which sought to ban Jewish societies during the 1970s; and the same NUS from which Luciana Berger MP resigned in 2005 over the union's "apathy" towards antisemitism.

The victory of Malia Bouattia, who has appeared to support violent Palestian "resistance" and dismissed Jewish societies as political threats, is nothing more than another soiled page in the union's polluted book.

Jewish students must ask themselves how they should react. We are told, by the Union of Jewish Students, that the best course of action is to remain in the NUS and fight from within. We have heard of battles being won, such as the motion to oppose antisemitism at last week's conference.

This might be convincing were it not for the damage which the NUS has caused Jewish students in the past few years alone. We cannot forget that it has used its vast funding -some of which comes from the tuition fees of Jewish students - to finance BDS propaganda. We cannot ignore that instead of helping the Jewish community in the fight against racism, it has isolated Jewish students from its campaigns, played down antisemitic incidents and now elected a president who has used antisemitic tropes.

There is no benefit to be had for the UJS to maintain formal co-operation, and we shouldn't be afraid of saying so.

There are no relationships of any importance to be cultivated in a political playhouse which most students increasingly ridicule. The Jewish community's closest allies are to be found in general university life - and relationships are being built every day through the vibrant life of JSocs. UJS should re-direct its focus to these far more important areas.

Non-Jewish students have left NUS out of principle; students across the country are calling on their student unions to disaffiliate; and now Jewish students should follow suit. Let us stick to our principles and stop indulging this body that has let us down for so long.

Joseph Stoll is vice president of King's College London Israel Society. Jonathan Hunter is studying modern Jewish studies at Oxford University


By Russell Langer

● It was in the 1970s and '80s that Jewish students fought alongside the National Union of Students in kicking the fascist National Front off campus.

It was Jewish students who were at the forefront of creating the anti-racism campaign that has continued to ensure the safety of not only Jewish students, but all minorities.

And it was Jewish students who at last week's conference worked hard to ensure that the NUS passed policy on committing to combat antisemitism and to officially commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

Jewish students' relationship with the NUS hasn't always been positive, but no one can deny the impact that they continue to have in the student movement.

Hannah Rose, second-time conference delegate from Bristol University put it aptly: "Let's stop focusing on the failures of the last week, and start thinking about what we want from the year ahead in our student movement."

It's true, last week didn't necessarily go the way we wanted it to. Malia was elected and is still to acknowledge and apologise for her disgraceful antisemitic rhetoric. I understand the anger displayed by Jewish students in the past week; I share that same anger, and if Malia continues to deny that she's done anything wrong then we will find it impossible to work with her.

But the NUS doesn't stop at Malia. With the election of vice-presidents Robbie Young and Richard Brooks and the re-election of Jewish student Izzy Lenga on NEC, we still have allies who are willing to fight our corner.

Therefore, the Union of Jewish Students is not yet abandoning its longstanding relationship with the NUS.

Disaffiliation is a matter for each individual student union to decide. However, it seems like many of those calling for disaffiliation have never once attempted to engage with the NUS. Whether we like it or not, the union is the representative body for seven million students and consistently has a seat at the table when lobbying on students' behalf. By disaffiliating, students are giving up at a time when real leadership is needed.

Disaffiliation is an option that we must leave on the table and I fear that we are getting closer to the day that it will be the only option - but that day is not today.

Jewish students and students all around the country have a choice: disaffiliate, give up, and let the student movement be dominated by Malia and her supporters; or run for delegate, get involved, and fight back to reclaim our student movement while we still can.

Russell Langer is UJS campaigns director

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