Bouattia comments 'abhorrent'


New comments on antisemitism from Malia Bouattia, the National Union of Students president, have sparked an angry response from Jewish students.

In an interview with the Guardian, Ms Bouattia appeared to suggest a row earlier this year over her views on Zionism had raised the NUS's profile.

She told the newspaper that the episode had led to new opportunities for her group to "put out our vision of the future".

Ms Bouattia was elected to lead the NUS in April, despite the concerns of Jewish students.

She had previously referred to the University of Birmingham as "something of a Zionist outpost" and elsewhere talked about "mainstream Zionist-led media outlets".

In the interview, which was published on Monday, Ms Bouattia denied her statements had been antisemitic.

"I wasn't being critical of the number of Jewish students or the size of the Jewish society at Birmingham," she said. "It was very much in relation to the opposition to any kind of Palestine solidarity efforts that were taking place."

She did not rule out repeating such comments in the future.

"It's not about not saying it again, it's about just breaking them down to explain what I meant," she said.

In response, Josh Nagli, Union of Jewish Students campaigns director, said: "Her poor attempts to clarify her past rhetoric are clumsy and do not remotely hold with Jewish students. They have not misinterpreted her, nor misunderstood her."

Mr Nagli said the suggestion that Ms Bouattia could explain her remarks was "abhorrent". Her stance, he claimed, "proves that Jewish students' concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"Does she realise that many Jewish students have fears about going on to campus this year, let alone engaging in NUS's structures?

"If her vision of the future is one where Jewish students are made to feel intimidated by the things their national president says - and where their oppression is used as a wave to ride on and not taken seriously - then it is a future that I, and I'm sure many, don't want to be part of."

Izzy Lenga, a Jewish member of the NUS's National Executive Council, tweeted: "Everyone can (and should) define their own oppression. Apart from Jews.

"That's the job of @MaliaBouattia & others #forevergrateful."

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