NUS faces fresh charges of anti-Semitism

Noella Chye 26 April 2017

The NUS is facing fresh charges of anti-semitism, ever since three of its executive committee candidates were revealed to have posted offensive comments online. 

Tweets of Ali Milani, a current member of the National Executive and president of Brunel University students’ union, emerged from 2012 and 2013, in which he claimed that Israel was “a land built on colonialism and ethnic cleansing”, and has “no right to exist”. Milani, who is running for the post of Vice President of Union Development, also tweeted in a reply to another user that “Nah u won’t mate, it’ll cost you a pound #Jew”, insinuating that Jews are stingy, and seems to defend the terrorist group Hamas firing rockets into Israel. He writes: “Oh fuck off! Hamas firing into southern Israel was a retaliation!”

Another candidate, Sean O’Neill, tweeted in 2012 using the hashtags “#heilhitler” and “#fuckslutskilljews”. Tweets of current NUS LGBT+ officer Noorulann Shahid were also found which contained links to a comedy video titled ‘Black and Jewish (Black and Yellow parody)’, which includes various anti-Semitic tropes performed by two black women dressed in traditional Jewish attire, making jokes about Jews having big noses and being stingy. Lyrics include “my ass and nose, they’re both big”, and “don’t spend no money but you know I’m rich”. Shahid writes: “I LOL’d at this”. 

Josh Nagli, campaigns director at the Union of Jewish Students, told the Independent he was “appalled by the absolutely disgraceful comments, all of which are extremely offensive to Jewish students”, and that “The regularity of anti-Semitic comments being made by candidates is exceptionally worrisome and shows complete disregard for the welfare of Jewish students, as well as for the anti-racist, anti-fascist values that NUS and many of these individuals claim to uphold – particularly when those comments invoke the memory of the Holocaust.” He urges these candidates to step down, a move which is entirely appropriate in light of the severity of their comments which not only fails to uphold their claims of true student representation, but also, as Nagli puts it, “are reflective of a wider culture of wilful tolerance towards anti-Semitism from members of the far left of the student movement that has been present for a number of years.”

The revelations are, perhaps, no surprise for those who remember similar charges against Mali Bouattia, who was elected NUS president in April 2016. In a report published in October, the NUS president, who is seeking re-election, was repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism by the Jewish student community. Subsequently, a report was published by the cross-party Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which highlighted incidents Bouattia committed before and after her appointment. For example, she said in a recorded speech at a conference in 2014 that “With mainstream Zionist-led media outlets… resistance is resented as an act of terrorism.” She has also referred to the University of Birmingham as being “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education.” The report concludes that “The current president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouatti, does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students’ concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns”, The Independent reports.