Ministers banned official contact with the National Union of Students over long-standing allegations of anti-Semitism within the organization, despite NUS’s commitment to work with Jewish students in an internal investigation.
The allegations have become a priority for the government since the election of Shaima Dallali as the next NUS president, with groups like the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) raising concerns after alleged historical comments resurfaced. surface.
Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, announced the suspension of NUS recognition, saying he was “seriously concerned” about reports of alleged anti-Semitism.
“Jewish students need to trust that this is a body that represents them, and we need to ensure that the student bodies we engage with speak fairly for all students, which is why we are disengaging from the NUS until the issues are resolved. been addressed,” Zahawi said.
“Based on NUS’s initial response to our concerns, I am confident that they are keen to take action and welcome further updates from them.”
Michelle Donelan, Minister for Higher and Further Education in England, announced that she had written to the electorate who oversaw this year’s NUS presidential election, requesting information on how the election was conducted.
The NUS represents seven million students in universities and colleges, with 600 affiliated student unions. The suspension only affects his dealings with the Westminster government and not those of other countries.
Matt Western, Labour’s shadow universities minister, said it was important for Jewish students to feel safe and able to participate in student organizations. “It is important that the NUS listens, and I hope that the independent investigation they have rightly put in place will resolve these issues to the satisfaction of all concerned,” he said. declared.
The Department for Education (DfE) said: “Although the NUS has shown its willingness to respond to the concerns expressed by ministers, including by starting to launch a process of independent inquiries, this will need to lead to substantive action. .
“This decision to disengage from NUS will be reviewed as long as the organization demonstrates that it has properly addressed these issues.”
A NUS spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed that the Minister for Universities has announced in a press release that the DfE will be disengaging from NUS, rather than seeking to engage directly with us.
“Following a complaint of anti-Semitism, we have launched an independent investigation. We will appoint a QC, in consultation with the Union of Jewish Students, next week. We have sought to undertake the investigation in a serious and appropriate manner, and are working with the UJS every step of the way.
“Once the QC is appointed, we can take stock of the process and the schedule. We look forward to working constructively with the government on this issue.
The DfE said that during the suspension the NUS will be removed from all government groups and replaced by alternative student representatives. The ministry is asking independent bodies, including the Office for Students, the higher education regulator, to take similar action.
Following Dallali’s election earlier this year, the UJS took issue with comments she allegedly made, including a tweet posted 10 years ago that read: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… The Army of Muhammad will return to Gaza,” referring to an AD628 assault on Jews.
Dallali – who is president of the City Students’ Union, University of London – apologized for the tweet, saying she was no longer the same person she was then.
In an interview with the Guardian, Dallali, 27, revealed that since her election she had received a lot of Islamophobic and racist abuse online. “Unfortunately, as a black Muslim woman, this is something I expected because I have seen this happen to other black Muslim women,” she said.