By Anna Tatham
NUS officer Ayo Olatunji has resigned over a series of tweets which alleged that Israel has “many Nazi policies and principles”, and described the country as “the imperialist racist state”.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) called the comments “outrageous” and accused Olatunji of “blatantly antisemitic language shared online”.
Olatunji was due to face a motion of censure at an NUS National Executive Committee Meeting over the tweets posted in August, however, he resigned ahead of this on Monday, as confirmed by an NUS spokesperson.
In response to Olatunji’s controversial statements, Durham Students’ Union President, George Walker, was among almost 300 students and sabbatical officers to sign an open letter which stands in solidarity with Jewish students and describes Olatuni’s comments as “deeply antisemitic”.
The document has been signed by prominent figures at Durham University such as Meg Haskins, Welfare and Liberation Officer of Durham Students’ Union, Christopher Clarke, President of the Durham Union and David Evans, Postgraduate Academic Officer.
The UJS said that under the IHRA definition of antisemitism that the NUS has adopted, Olatunji’s language was antisemitic.
Tweets from Olatunji in August included the accusation that “the Israel lobby has been seen to bully the UK into changing headlines and focus, I believe it is happening right now with Jeremy Corbyn.”
He also tweeted: “Regardless of where the IHRA definition is accepted in society it is important to ALWAYS state and push the fact that Israel is a racist endeavour, we can’t let the imperialist racist state of Israel revise history.
“Also there are many Nazi policies and principles that are embodied within Israel’s culture and policy making, don’t allow Israel to change your mind on this.”
Olatunji was elected to the NUS’ National Executive Committee at their national conference in April.
Olatunji defended his statements in a series of tweets, writing that “comparing Israel to Nazis is not just a valid critique but it is a true statement to make”.
He also stated, in response to the Jewish News’ article reporting on UJS comments, that “calling me anti-Semitic is akin to libel”, and that he “won’t accept a lesson in morality from an org [UJS] which normalises the racist apartheid state that is Israel by taking students on frequent trips there”.
He previously told The Tab: “I will not be stepping down from the NUS National Executive Committee, nor will I be bullied out, I was elected by people who believed in my vision and I will not compromise on my views because they hold uncomfortable truths for Zionists.”
George Walker wrote in a post on Facebook: “It is welcome that Ayo has now taken the correct decision to resign from his position as a member of the NUS National Executive Committee:
“The Durham SU Officer team were pleased to sign the open letter condemning the hurtful antisemitic comments that were made and we are committed to continuing to oppose racism and antisemitism in Durham and across the student movement.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UJS has said: “We are pleased that Ayo Olatunji has resigned from NEC of the National Union of Students. Olatunji deliberately caused deep hurt to Jewish students with his antisemitic comments.”
In a statement, The National Union of Students stated that it “believes that all forms of hate and prejudice are unacceptable. NUS will continue to engage with the Jewish students and the community to identify ways in which we can ensure our spaces are inclusive and accessible to all students.
“We will always strive to create a sector, organisation and movement that gives everyone the opportunity to learn, share ideas and lead without fear”.
Photographs: Helen Paton and Twitter