More than 40 student leaders have issued an open letter calling on their national union to address the concerns of Jewish students over antisemitism.
Jewish students, they said, “have repeatedly highlighted concerns and yet again their voices have been dismissed. Time and time again Jewish students have not felt safe participating in our national movement, because of the actions and rhetoric of leadership of NUS.”
The letter was signed by three NUS vice presidents Richard Brooks, Rob Young and Shakira Martin, the president of NUS Scotland Vonnie Sandlan, the deputy president of NUS Wales Carmen Ria Smith, other NUS executive members as well as the heads of individual university student unions.
It will be seen as a direct challenge to Malia Bouattia, the president of the National Union of Students, who has been under fire over comments on Zionism, although it does not mention her by name.
NUS leadership, the letter stated, had “rightly come under increased scrutiny for its attitude towards Jewish students. They have been held to account for undermining Jewish students’ ability to elect their own representatives and challenged on antisemitic rhetoric.”
It said “we must listen to Jewish students when they say something is antisemitic”.
Ms Bouattia has denied that remarks such as referring to Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost” are antisemitic.
But Josh Nagli, campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Students, earlier this month called her attempts to clarify her comments as “poor” and “clumsy”.
Mr Brooks told Radio 4’s World at One on Wednesday the “progressive part of society” had a problem identifying antisemitism.