Shaima Dallali has slammed her sacking as National Union of Students (NUS) president as "unacceptable" after a months-long independent investigation into allegations of antisemitism found "significant breaches" of the union's policies.
The NUS announced yesterday that it had terminated Dallali's contract after a months-long independent investigation into allegations of antisemitism
After being suspended from her role at the end of August, it is understood that the organisation decided to dismiss her for gross misconduct.
In a statement, the student organisation said: "Following the independent KC-led investigation into allegations of antisemitism, specifically into the then-President Elect under the NUS Code of Conduct, an independent panel has found that significant breaches of NUS’ policies have taken place. As per this finding, we have terminated the President’s contract."
The NUS added: "We are sorry for the harm that has been caused and we hope to rebuild the NUS in an inclusive way – fighting for all students as we have done for the past 100 years."
It is thought to be the first time in the 100-year history of the national student organisation that a president has been suspended or fired.
In a tweet after her firing, Dallali said: "On the first day of Islamophobia Awareness Month, I find out I have been dismissed through Twitter. That is unacceptable."
Ms Dallali learned of the dismissal from a journalist’s tweet at 16:13 on 1 November, some 17 minutes before she received an official communication from the Chair of the NUS Disciplinary Hearing Panel.
In a statement after yesterday's announcement, the Union of Jewish Students said: "UJS respects the decision of the National Union of Students to dismiss their President. Antisemitism in the student movement goes beyond the actions of any one individual and this case is a symptom of a wider problem.
"Jewish students across the country will be asking how an individual deemed unfit for office by NUS was elected in the first place. We await the findings of the substantive inquiry into NUS’ treatment of Jewish students."
Chloe Field, VP of Higher Education, will step up as acting chair of the NUS UK Board and will push for more support for students amid the cost of living crisis, the NUS confirmed.
On the first day of Islamophobia Awareness Month, I find out I have been dismissed through Twitter.— Shaima Dallali (@ShaimaDallali) November 1, 2022
That is unacceptable.
Robert Halfon, a government minister in the Department for Education, tweeted: "Antisemitism is abhorrent and I welcome this verdict from the NUS.
"However, this is only the first step in addressing antisemitism allegations within the organisation and am very keen to see further action that they are taking concerns from Jewish students seriously."
Dallali, 27, was elected to lead the NUS for a two-year term from July after being elected by delegates at the organisation’s national conference in March.
It then emerged that Dallali had posted provocative comments such as “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza” – a reference to a 628 massacre. 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 Labour Against Antisemitism, it was revealed that she had 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 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”.
The JC revealed in May that government ministers were demanding an investigation after it emerged that Dallali’s election may have been invalid because she failed to commit to the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.
Facing huge public pressure, the NUS then announced in May that it had appointed Rebecca Tuck KC to conduct an independent investigation into Dallali, as well as allegations of institutional antisemitism at the organisation.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dallali said she welcomed the independent investigation, saying it was “the right thing to do. I know quite a few Jewish students feel alienated. This is the first step to start bridging the gap and reaching out to Jewish students and ensuring that Jewish students feel like they have a place in NUS.”
Just hours after her suspension as president on 24 August, Dallali posted on Twitter: “Don't ever believe that an organisation is ‘progressive’ or cares about justice before finding out how they treat women of colour and/or Muslim women. Many enable oppression and Islamophobia. They will punish us for daring to be political and make us believe it's our fault.”
Two weeks later, Dallali posted a lengthy thread on Twitter: “I always knew it would be difficult being a Black, Muslim woman in the public eye but the racist and Islamophobic abuse I have been subjected to and death threats I have received since becoming NUS president are not ok.
Antisemitism is abhorrent and I welcome this verdict from the NUS. However, this is only the first step in addressing antisemitism allegations within the organisation and am very keen to see further action that they are taking concerns from Jewish students seriously 👇 https://t.co/ciGEwHCibz— Robert Halfon MP ➡️Working Hard for Harlow⬅️ (@halfon4harlowMP) November 1, 2022
“I came into this role with so much hope and enthusiasm to build on the amazing work of the student movement and to serve students across the UK. Instead, I’ve been subjected to the most horrifying attacks on my character, my faith and my identity.
“No doubt, these attacks have taken a toll on my mental & physical health. But what keeps me going is the thousands of incredible students who elected me with an overwhelming majority. I was elected by them with the promise of serving them & that I would never give up on them.”
She went on to allege that “There are those 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 who assume this role in the future has to ever experience what I’ve experienced.
“I am proud to be Black. I’m proud to be Muslim and I’m proud to be serving students across the country who are facing some of the most difficult challenges that students have ever had to face.”
The union has been engulfed by an antisemitism crisis with Jewish students citing a climate of fear on campus.
In May, the government announced it was cutting ties with NUS in the wake of accusations of “antisemitic rot at its heart”.
Announcing the move, the Department for Education cited “allegations of antisemitism, which have been well-documented and span several years”.
It noted that the allegations had caused “a feeling of insecurity amongst Jewish students across the country and a worry systemic antisemitism within the organisation is not being properly addressed”.
This article was revised on 12 January 2023 to clarify the circumstances in which Ms Dallali learned of her dismissal from the NUS.