The controversial election of Malia Bouattia to the leadership of the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) is splitting the organization with a host of universities now saying they may leave and form their own alternative group.
Miss Bouattia, 28, the NUS’s first black female Muslim leader, has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in the lead-up to her election – including calling the University of Birmingham “something of a Zionist outpost”.
As Breitbart London has reported, in the past she also led a successful call to reject a motion condemning the IS terror group because it would be “islamophobic”. Miss Bouattia is opposed to the UK government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy and in 2014 a video from a Gaza and Palestinian Revolution event emerged where she questioned the value of the Middle East peace talks and warned of the influence of “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets”.
She has since said she is “extremely uncomfortable with insinuations of anti-Semitism”, adding: “For me to take issue with Zionist politics is not me taking issue with being Jewish.”
In the immediate aftermath of her election, Harry Samuels, an NUS delegate from the University of Oxford, told BBC Newsnight her appointment was undemocratic because she was not elected under a system of “one member, one vote”.
“It’s not just about Malia in particular,” he said. “Obviously her election enshrines the fact that NUS no longer represents all students, but there are other grievances we have with the rest of the organisation, there are other reasons we think that the organisation is no longer reformable.
“It’s the mixture of those reasons why we’re campaigning to leave.”
A group of students at the University of Cambridge has joined Oxford in questioning Miss Bouattia’s election and submitted a motion to hold a referendum to disaffiliate their student union with the NUS. More than 50 heads of Jewish societies at universities across the country released an open letter to Bouattia on Wednesday asking her to clarify her position and respond to allegations of anti-Semitism.
You can see her response below:
— Malia Bouattia (@MaliaBouattia) April 14, 2016
The Union of Jewish Students has also taken direct issue with Miss Bouattia and questioned whether the NUS is “doing all it can to fight anti-Semitism” after students at the three-day NUS conference heard arguments against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day.
The union issued a statement, part of which said:
`Antisemitism has been something of a buzzword at NUS Conference 2016 and in the student movement this year. This looks set to continue, especially in light of the questions posed by 57 J-Soc Presidents to Malia Bouattia ahead of the presidential election. Jewish students have not yet received adequate answers from Malia on these concerns and UJS will continue to support their demands for answers over the next year.
`There is now a choice to be made. Jewish students need to decide whether NUS has gone too far for them to want to be involved, or whether now is the time to step up the fight from within. UJS will be consulting Jewish students in the near future and will continue to ensure that their interests are best represented.’
Students at Manchester, York, Exeter and Durham universities have also said they will campaign to demand their student unions cut ties with the NUS.
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