Jews faced 'hostile culture' at National Union of Students

Jews faced ‘hostile culture’ at National Union of Students, damning report finds: Students were made to feel like ‘pariahs’, term ‘final solution’ was used in meeting and it failed to protect them from anti-Semitic abuse from pro-Palestinian activists

  • Independent report by Rebecca Tuck KC was commissioned by the NUS itself
  • The ‘shocking’ report listed 11 recommendations for the union to consider
  • It did not suggest any sanctions on individuals or any further investigations 

Jewish students faced a ‘hostile’ culture within the National Union of Students (NUS) after it failed to sufficiently challenge antisemitism, a ‘shocking’ investigation has found.

According to the report by Rebecca Tuck KC, Jews were on occasion made to feel like ‘pariahs’ and were not properly protected from anti-Semitic abuse from pro-Palestinian activists.

One individual reportedly refused to apologise after using the term ‘final solution’ in a meeting. The term was adopted by the Nazis to describe their plan for the genocide of all Jews, which saw at least six million murdered during the Second World War. 

The independent investigation found that Jews were on occasion subjected to harassment – as defined by the Equality Act 2010 – and breaches of the union’s own policies. It laid out 11 recommendations for the union to consider but did not call for any sanctions or further investigation.

It comes after a report published last month by Lord Mann of Holbeck Moor, the Government’s adviser on anti-Semitism, warned of an ‘alarming growth’ in anti-Jewish hate among young people. 

Jewish students have faced a `hostile´ culture within the NUS, an independent investigation has found (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

According to the report by Rebecca Tuck KC, Jews were on occasion made to feel like ‘pariahs’ and were not properly protected from anti-Semitic abuse from pro-Palestinian activists (Pictured: Activists outside the Students Union of Cambridge University last February, while the Ambassador of Israel, Tzipi Hotovely, gave a talk inside) 

Other examples of anti-Semitism on campuses in recent years, according to the most recent NUS report, include Jewish freshers having swastikas drawn on them during white T-shirt parties and stickers reading ‘Hitler was right’ being placed in student common rooms.

The NUS, which commissioned the probe, acknowledged its findings are ‘shocking’ and said it is committed to tackling antisemitism across ‘the breadth and depth’ of the union.

The report found there was a ‘poor relationship’ between the NUS and some Jewish students, stemming from views about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It cited numerous instances in which Jews suffered antisemitism because of assumptions that they were Zionists and about what that means.

‘This has resulted in antisemitism as well as hostility towards Jews which has not been challenged sufficiently robustly or proactively by NUS,’ the report said.

The only official NUS statement of solidarity made in support of Jewish students in recent years, which was not expressly called for by the UJS, was to condemn extreme right-wing antisemitism, according to the report.

But the investigation also highlights reports from Jewish students of a more insidious form of antisemitism whereby they are treated as pariahs because of their perceived connection to issues relating to Israel and Palestinians.

It comes after the union’s former president, Shaima Dallali, was sacked after an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism.

Ms Dallali rejected the findings of the disciplinary panel and said the process constituted ‘discriminatory treatment of her as a black Muslim woman and her beliefs concerning the plight of the Palestinian people’.

The report did not recommend sanctions or further disciplinary investigation, instead setting out 11 recommendations for the union to consider.

These include the introduction of regular antisemitism training for NUS staff and officers and the production of educational materials on antisemitism and the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Using the term ‘final solution’ and repeating the vile ‘blood libel’ myth are among the incidents reported to have occurred within NUS spaces, according to an independent probe

The investigation into anti-Semitism within the National Union of Students (NUS) lists incidents reported to have occurred within NUS spaces, such as:

– A meeting in which the words ‘the final solution’ – a term given by the Nazis to their plan for the genocide of all Jews – were used. The individual who used the term refused to reword their comment or apologise despite being confronted about its connotations.

When Coca-Cola sponsored a 2015 NUS conference, some ‘pro-Palestinian’ students objected because of a distribution centre in the West Bank, the report says. An elected officer is said to have been messaged by another officer: ‘Enjoy the sweet taste of a dead baby’s blood in that Coke you’re loving’, which invoked the notoriously anti-Semitic myth of the blood libel – that Jews use the blood of young children to make Matzah bread at Passover.

A Jewish student being told by a high-ranking elected student representative at a 2012 NUS conference that ‘UJS (Union of Jewish Students) is funded by Mossad, and that as a result I naturally am too’.

But it also noted that recommendations from ‘numerous’ previous investigations have been implemented inconsistently, with the union’s own policies – particularly its Code of Conduct and social media rules – being flouted on a number of occasions.

‘It is apparent from this report – and indeed from other reports over the last 17 years – that the culture within NUS and at NUS events has been perceived by many Jewish students, for good reason, as hostile,’ Ms Tuck concluded.

President of the UJS, Joel Rosen, said: ‘This landmark report sets out in granular detail how NUS has failed generations of Jewish students.

‘It is a searing indictment of anti-Jewish racism at the heart of student politics. It confirms that Jewish students faced harassment and discrimination and that complaints of antisemitism were dismissed and disregarded.

‘It is vital that this report is translated into meaningful and immediate action. All 11 recommendations in the report should be implemented. We now need to see a fundamental change within NUS’s culture and Jewish students will judge them on their actions.’

The NUS said: ‘The report is a detailed and shocking account of antisemitism within the student movement. It is a truly difficult read for all of us but we welcome the clarity it brings to enable us to act with confidence to tackle antisemitism head on.

‘There is no place for antisemitism within NUS and we are committed to ensuring that Jewish students feel safe and welcome in every corner of our movement. ‘

It added its priority would be to ‘take forward’ the recommendations of the review and be transparent in reporting its progress.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism, said Ms Tuck’s report was ‘exceptionally important’ in ‘vindicating the experiences of Jewish students’.

But he added that it marked the third major review of the NUS’ relations with Jewish students in the past two decades.

‘Whatever their merits, those reports failed to overcome the personnel and institutional problems that have plagued NUS, with Jewish students bearing the impact,’ Mr Falter said.

The National Student Union’s former president, Shaima Dallali (pictured), was sacked after an investigation into allegations of anti-Semitism. Ms Dallali rejected the findings of the disciplinary panel and said the process constituted ‘discriminatory treatment of her as a black Muslim woman and her beliefs concerning the plight of the Palestinian people’

‘NUS must not only implement the Tuck Report’s specific recommendations but must introduce measures to monitor and assess progress. We will continue to help Jewish students, including by providing them with free legal representation, and hold NUS to account to ensure that the body that is meant to represent all students finally recognises that that includes Jews.’

CST, a charity that helps British Jews with problems relating to antisemitism, said: ‘It is disturbing, but sadly not surprising, that (Ms Tuck) has found that Jewish students have been denied an equal role in their own national union and their complaints about antisemitism have been consistently treated as being made in bad faith.

‘It is a shocking indictment of NUS that an organisation that is supposed to uphold the highest standards of anti-racism and equality has ended up creating what Tuck called a ‘hostile environment’ for Jewish students.’

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