Disgraced NUS president’s award from ally of Hamas

Shaima Dallali was presented with prize for Palestine activism days before being sacked from student body


Disgraced NUS president Shaima Dallali accepted an award from an ally of Hamas just days before she was dismissed following an antisemitism investigation, the JC can confirm.

She was photographed smiling and cradling the prize for “campaigning on behalf of Palestinians” at an awards ceremony held by Palestinian Forum in Britain (PFB) two weeks ago.

The group recently launched a campaign claiming that interfaith dialogue is a Zionist strategy to cover up Israeli “apartheid”.

The sacking of Ms Dallali on Tuesday came seven months after the JC and activist group Labour Against Antisemitism (LAAS) unearthed her controversial statements, including praising antisemitic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Her dismissal has prompted politicians to demand the NUS takes further urgent steps to address claims of antisemitism within the organisation.

Education Minister Robert Halfon said: “This is only the first step … and I am very keen to see further action that they are taking concerns from Jewish students seriously.”

The comment was echoed by cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, who said he “looks forward” to further action from the NUS, “so Jewish students can enjoy their student years free from racism”.

The Union of Jewish Students said in a statement: “Jewish students across the country will be asking how an individual deemed unfit for office by NUS was elected in the first place.”

Presenting the award to Ms Dallali was PFB chairman Zaher Birawi, who has been pictured alongside Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Another prizewinner was Daud Abdullah, the former deputy chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain, who caused outrage in 2009 by signing a declaration that the UK government interpreted as calling for violence against Israel and the British Navy.

On Tuesday, the NUS announced that an independent, KC-led investigation had found that “significant breaches of NUS’ policies had taken place”, and so the decision was taken to terminate Ms Dallali’s contract.

Ms Dallali, 27, has posted provocative comments such as “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza”, a reference to a massacre in 628. She has apologised for the 2012 tweet, saying she was now “a different person”.

In material passed to the JC earlier this year by researchers at LAAS, which has investigated Ms Dallali’s social media history, she also labelled a cleric critical of Hamas a “dirty Zionist” and posted a video of anti-Israel protesters calling for an intifada.

And in a 2018 article, she praised antisemitic Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who was expelled from Britain, America, France and Germany, calling him the “moral compass for the Muslim community at large”.

Expert in campus antisemitism Dr David Hirsh told the JC: “Dallali was elected by delegates who knew about her antisemitic worldview, because UJS had spoken out about it.

“Her views are not that unusual on campus and they are shared by many academics. Those who do not share them generally keep quiet, hoping to be left alone.”

Reacting to her sacking by the NUS, former home secretary and NUS president Jack Straw said: “The decision removes a horrible stain from NUS’s reputation. I worried that in its centenary year Ms Dallali was going to destroy good work by a decent organisation, in partnership with many others including UJS, at a stroke. Thankfully that worry is gone. Much more important is the impact this decision should have on Jewish students.”

The Campaign Against Antisemitism questioned why the decision to fire her had taken so long. “Ms Dallali’s election and the duration of her term, both in spite of the public history of her comments and the limited remorse that she has shown, bolster concerns over the culture of student politics and the institutional problems at NUS,” a spokesperson said.

And Noah Katz, Vice President of Education at Lancaster Student Union and member of NUS’s National Scrutiny Council, told the JC: “As a Jewish sabbatical officer at an NUS-affiliated students’ union, I’m relieved that appropriate action has been taken. I hope that, pending the release of the rest of the IIA, the NUS can now focus on what should be its mission statement: fighting for students.”

In response to Ms Dallali’s dismissal, Muslim students have launched a campaign to dissaffiliate from the NUS.

In a speech during the Israel-Hamas war in May last year, PFB chairman Mr Birawi, who later presented the award to Ms Dallali, said: “I would like to thank Gaza and the legitimate … resistance movement in all the occupied Palestinian land which proved to be the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinians wherever they are.”

He was also pictured leading a protest march on 22 May last year as the Gaza conflict was ongoing. The banner he was holding called for Palestinians to “resist” and “return”.

In August, the JC revealed that at an event organised by the PFB, Mr Abdullah warned of “the misuse of interfaith dialogue to cover up the crimes committed against the Palestinian people”.

He claimed that such dialogue was favoured by “rich Jewish philanthropists” to “influence opinion in the Muslim community”.

During a question-and-answer session at the same event, James Thring, a Holocaust denier who has appeared on former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke’s radio programme, said the problem was “Talmudism”.

Rifat Odeh Kassis, a Palestinian advocate and writer, said that the only acceptable interfaith events would be those that were “resistance-orientated”.

Ms Dallali received the award for being “a fierce defender of Palestinian human rights ever since she joined university,” the PFB wrote on Facebook. “She was also a regular speaker for Palestine in national demonstration and in university. In March 2022, Dallali was elected as a president of the National Union of Students for a two-year term that was scheduled to start in July 2022 but after pressure from pro-Israel groups she was suspended from her position after an investigation that ended in September 2022. Many commentators and critics attributed her suspension to her commitment of Solidarity with the Palestinian cause.”

Since her suspension on 24 August, she has said she was subjected to “racist and Islamophobic abuse” that had a detrimental impact on her physical and mental health.

She also claimed that there are people “working tirelessly to make sure that women who look like me never feel welcomed or safe in public positions. I’m also working hard to make sure that no black, Muslim women … has to ever experience what I’ve experienced.”

In a statement, her lawyers said: “Ms Dallali rejects the findings of the disciplinary panel, as she rejected the allegations about her that were investigated in the context of those investigations. She considers the process to have constituted — and that it continues to constitute — discriminatory treatment of her as a black Muslim woman and her beliefs concerning the plight of the Palestinian people.”

Mr Birawi was contacted for comment.

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