Exeter University Students’ Guild has launched an investigation into its newly-elected vice-president over allegations she posted antisemitic and anti-Israeli comments on social media.
Malaka Shwaikh, who is a Palestinian from Gaza, was elected unopposed to the post with reponsibility for post-graduate students.
But a spokesman for the guild confirmed it was investigating “allegations of antisemitism” after a tweet posted on Ms Shwaikh’s account the day before Holocaust Memorial Day in January this year said: “The shadow of the Holocaust continues to fall over us from the continuous Israeli occupation of Palestine to the election of Trump.”
In a further tweet, from 2015, she wrote: “If terrorism means protecting and defending my land, I am so proud to be called terrorist. What an honour for the Palestinians!”
Concerns over the messages were raised by the Campaign Against Antisemitism to the authorities at Exeter.
Ms Shwaikh told the Devon Live website: “I have never denied the horrific crime of the Holocaust that was inflicted upon the Jewish people, neither have I ever made light of it.
“The tweet in question was referring to how following this genocide in Europe, and in an attempt at making amends, European powers supported a settler colonial project which would see Palestine wiped off the map.”
She added that “without understanding the wider context” the “terrorist” tweet “may appear to be a radical statement that would rightly raise serious concerns by both the University of Exeter and its Students’ Guild. However, as I will attempt to explain, these kind of statements by Palestinians are most commonly in response to efforts by Israel advocacy groups and the Israeli government to demonise and dehumanise Palestinians.”
The JC has been sent further pro-Hamas messages and photographs that have appeared on the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Ms Shwaikh, who studies international law.
In one photo on Facebook she is pictured at the bedside of convicted Hamas terrorist Ayman Sharawna in March 2013. Sharawna was arrested in Israel in 2002 and sentenced to 38 years in prison for his role in multiple terrorist actions.
A second Facebook message from December 2012, seen by the JC, describes a speech given by senior Hamas figure Khaled Mashaal as “excellent”. During the speech, Mashaal says the “Jewish state would be wiped away”.
Ms Shwaikh did not respond to a request for comment from the JC.
In a statement, the guild said an investigation had been launched to explore “allegations of antisemitism”.
Toby Gladwin, the guild president, added: “The Students’ Guild is a passionate opponent of antisemitism in all forms.”
A university spokesman said the guild was responsible for the election of student representatives. He added that antisemitism was not tolerated at the university.
The Union of Jewish Students called on the guild and the university to take action to ensure Ms Shwaikh’s comments did not go unchallenged.
Exeter last week became the third university to cancel an Israel Apartheid Week event. A proposed mock Israeli checkpoint and an accompanying street-theatre performance by the campus Friends of Palestine group was banned by authorities as it would “restrict” students moving freely.
At Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Theresa May said universities had a responsibility to protect students against antisemitism.
Responding to a question from Conservative MP Bob Blackman on Israel Apartheid Week and intimidation of Jewish students, she said: “We expect them to have robust policies and procedures in place to comply with the law and swiftly investigate hate crime including any antisemitic incidents that are reported.”