The Education Secretary has said he is “deeply concerned” about “systemic antisemitism” within the National Union of Students.
Nadhim Zahawi told an Education Select Committee hearing: “I am deeply concerned about the NUS, it feels to me there is systemic antisemitism because is not the first but the second time I think they have elected a leader who’s got a history of antisemitic comments and statements, so that does concern me.”
President elect Shaima Dallali has labelled a Jordanian preacher who criticised Hamas a “dirty Zionist”, praised antisemitic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi as a “moral compass” and repeated a chant that references a massacre of Jews by the army of Mohammed.
The student activist has since apologised for repeating the chant, saying that she is no longer the same person.
Speaking to the Guardian yesterday, Ms Dallali said she had been misrepresented since her election and was not antisemitic.
Black Muslim women are “attacked based on their political beliefs or their pro-Palestinian stance,” she added.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Zahawi said: “The majority of students would never tolerate any form of antisemitism…
“I’m worried about the NUS. [Universities Minister] Michele Donelan is looking at how we deal with this issue.
“It's not acceptable in my view that anyone in a leadership position in that organisation holds those views or propagates them in any way and I think they need to rebuild, regain the trust of Jewish students because at the moment that trust has collapsed completely. And rightly so.”
Mr Zahawi also told the hearing he was committed to pushing every university to adopt the internationally recognised IHRA definition of antisemitism.
He said: “On the IHRA definition I with Minister Donelan held a summit in January to make sure we continue to - I want to see every higher education institution sign up.”
NUS leadership called last week for an independent investigation to be launched into the student body and Ms Dallali over their growing antisemitism crisis.
Hundreds of Jewish students have written to the union condemning a ‘climate of fear’ and calling for action on Jew hate.
Mr Zahawi added: “In my view I think there’s a lot of work that the NUS needs to do to get itself back into a - I wouldn’t even say a good place - a proper, functioning representative organisation.”