NUS president sparks fury over event

EXCLUSIVE: Larissa Kennedy is to join notorious BDS activist Omar Barghouti for an online event


The President of the National Union of Students has sparked fury for agreeing to speak alongside controversial Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti as part of Israel Apartheid Week.

Larissa Kennedy is listed as a speaker for an online debate called “United Against Racism: Resisting Israeli Apartheid”, to be held on Thursday.  

The decision by the NUS President to share a platform with Mr Barghouti, the founder and leader of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), has been condemned by anti-racist campaigners on campus.

The Palestinian activist has been criticised for his opposition to a two-state solution. Instead, he advocates a single “unitary state”, which critics say is simply code for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish country.

Ms Kennedy’s move was condemned by The Pinsker Centre, the think tank campaigning against antisemitism on campus. A spokesperson said that Israel Apartheid Week caused “offence and alarm” to many of the 8,500 Jewish students at universities across the UK.

He added: “As President of the NUS, Ms Kennedy must represent students of all backgrounds and faiths. 

“Her participation in an Israel Apartheid Week event with the founder of the BDS movement will feel like betrayal to many Jewish students who are made to feel unsafe by events of this kind.”

Ms Kennedy, of Warwick University, was elected in July last year. She has described herself as a “granddaughter of the Windrush generation”, and has campaigned for black rights.

The divisive Israel Apartheid Week has in the past seen mock “Israeli checkpoints” set up on university campus, and led to Jewish students being insulted and threatened.

In December, the Community Security Trust (CST) charity published a report detailing 123 antisemitic incidents on university campus over a two year period.

A total of 65 cases in the 2019/2020 year was the most ever recorded in a single academic year, even though it was cut short by the pandemic.

The event comes as Bristol University remains embroiled in a bitter controversy over the views of Professor David Miller, who has called for “an end to Zionism”.

A spokesman for the NUS said: “Larissa is participating in this event as she is committed to international solidarity and liberation for people across the world. NUS believes all marginalised groups should feel safe on campus and strives to ensure that the student movement is inclusive.”

In April, 2019, Mr Barghouti was barred from entering the United States. The same year, he was prevented from attending in person a Labour fringe event after his UK visa was delayed. 

The fringe event was being hosted by the hard left Momentum group at Labour's annual conference in Brighton. 

In November 2020, America’s outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo branded BDS a “manifestation of antisemitism” in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

He confirmed the outgoing administration would withdraw funding and support from organisations linked to the movement.

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