Donelan threatens to cut contact with NUS over alleged antisemitism

The NUS denies any claims of antisemitism and said its board would implement “robust internal procedures”, which may include an external independent adjudicator

The universities minister, Michelle Donelan, has threatened to cut contact with the National Union of Students (NUS) over the election of a new president who she alleges has “a history of antisemitic works”.

Donelan said the election of Shaima Dallali last week left her “deeply concerned by NUS antisemitism”, appealing to university student unions “to consider disaffiliation” from the national movement.

In a tweet, Donelan said she was considering “a range of possible measures”, including referring the NUS to the charity commission, as well as “full suspension from all engagement with [the] government” if union leaders do not “take immediate steps to regain the confidence of Jewish students”.

The NUS has strongly denied the claims, saying “there is no place for antisemitism within the student movement”.

Donelan referenced a news report that the NUS told Jewish students uncomfortable with the invitation of a speaker, Lowkey, to its national conference that they should use safe spaces, likening the suggestion to segregation. “Students deserve better from their representative organisation,” she said. The NUS said the claims that students be segregated were “simply untrue”.

Donelan added: “This is the second time in ten years the NUS has elected a President with a history of antisemitic works. While many in the NUS are genuinely committed to equality, this speaks of an organisation with deeper, systemic issues.

“To all the SUs doing good work for your students in universities across England, please, ask yourself how your ongoing association with the NUS will make many Jewish students feel. It is a difficult step, but it’s time to consider disaffiliation, unless matters improve quickly.”

 In a statement, the NUS said: “We are truly sorry for the concern and worry caused in recent weeks and are working to address any wrongdoing and rebuild trust.

“The NUS Board are meeting and will be following our robust internal procedures including considering appointing an independent external party to support with this.

“We will keep our members and other stakeholders updated as we move through our internal processes. There will be full transparency around any findings and outcomes.

“It is deeply concerning that public allegations are being made by government ministers and government advisors without evidence or engaging in any due process. We have reached out on multiple occasions to Government colleagues to invite them to ask us any questions, raise concerns, and have full sight of our internal processes. We are now taking legal advice on some of the actions of these individuals.”

Dallali’s candidacy drew detraction from some members of the National Union of Jewish Students (UJS). The UJS tweeted that some of its members had expressed concerns over her past tweets. The Jewish News reported that Dallali had apologised for a 10-year-old tweet that referenced the Battle of Khaybar, where many Jews were killed in conflict with Muslims.

The NUS said that it was not a charity and is, therefore, outside the remit of the Charity Commission. The union does have a charitable arm, however, that acts to ” support[…] the development of students’ unions throughout the country”.

Read more: NUS picks next national president

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