By Emma Pinckard
Alice Dee, President of Durham Students’ Union, and Lisa Whiting, Academic Affairs Officer, have signed an open letter to NUS President Malia Bouattia following a report into the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain.
The report, published by the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee last week, recommends that the international definition of anti-Semitism “should be formally adopted by the UK Government, law agencies and all political parties.”
It firmly states that using “the word ‘Zionist’ (or worse, ‘Zio’) as a term of abuse has no place in a civilised society… [and] this should be communicated by the Government and political parties.”
The Select Committee also emphasises the necessity that police forces take care to record and fully investigate reports of anti-Semitic crime.
The report states: “We question why police forces, operating in counties in which thousands of Jewish people live, have recorded few or no antisemitic crimes.”
It insists that the “Government, police and prosecuting authorities must … pursue a robust, zero-tolerance approach to this problem.”
It calls further for police forces to appoint hate crime officers, giving those reporting such incidents a direct point of contact.
The report also condemns social networks as “deplorable … inert host[s] for vast swathes of anti-Semitic hate speech and abuse” and calls for them to “significantly expand [their] enforcement remit to include proactive identification of abusive users.”
The Select Committee denounced the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, not only for his “lack of consistent leadership” but also for creating a “‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people” within the Labour Party.
It also deplores Ken Livingstone for his claims that Adolf Hitler “supported Zionism” as well as Shami Chakrabarti for her report into anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.
Campaign Against Antisemitism have stated: “Our only criticism of the report is that it is not sufficiently condemnatory of the Crown Prosecution Service whose response to anti-Semitism has been utterly deplorable.
“5,442 cases of hate crime were prosecuted last year, but we know of only 12 prosecutions for anti-Semitic hate crime.
“In the same year, anti-Semitic crime in the UK reached a record high.”
They have also emphasised that, as “Jews once again leave Europe and anti-Semitism is rising with chilling celerity in Britain, it is absolutely right that the Select Committee has endorsed the measures we have called for.
“They must now be swiftly implemented … and the authorities must enforce the law against anti-Semitism with zero tolerance.”
In addition to the above recommendations, the Select Committee call for the National Union of Students and its President, Malia Bouattia, to reverse the decision to remove Jewish students’ rights to choose their own representative and to withdraw the anti- Semitic comments that have been made.
The report states that language Bouattia has used “smacks of outright racism, which is unacceptable, and even more so from a public figure such as the President of the NUS.”
In response to this report, an open letter to Bouattia has been signed by representatives from students’ unions across the country.
The letter calls on the President of NUS UK “to issue a full and formal apology to Jewish students, and indeed to her entire membership.”
The letter states: “The statement issued by Malia to the press following the publication of the report does not go far enough in acknowledging or apologising for the significant damage that her actions and language have done to NUS and the student movement more widely.
“If Malia fails to acknowledge the need for an immediate and full apology, as well as provide details of how she will personally address these issues going forward, then we believe that she must resign.”
The letter continues to emphasise the importance of the report and the issues highlighted, and argues further that “the recommendations within should reinforce to others who hold office in NUS, who have either publicly defended Malia or actively chosen to remain silent that they too have a role to play in addressing the systemic problem of anti-Semitism within the student movement.”
Jake Goldman, President of the Durham University Jewish Society, has voiced his enthusiasm for Durham Students’ Union’s support for the letter.
Jake told Palatinate: “We fully support Durham Students’ Union, which works closely with JSoc and the national Union of Jewish Students, in holding Malia accountable, and we call on her to finally address the concerns of Jewish students as per the report.
“Anti-Semitism is no less hateful and dangerous than any other form of racism, and Jewish students should be entitled to define anti-Semitism just as any other group in the student movement is.
“Under Malia, the NUS has removed Jewish representation from its antiracism and antifascism Taskforce and has overseen arguments against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day, whilst Malia herself has sought to vilify Israel whilst refusing to vote to condemn ISIS.
“She consistently refuses to apologise for her past rhetoric, including describing the University of Birmingham as a ‘Zionist outpost’ and utilising anti-Semitic tropes.
“This is diametrically opposed to robust debate around Israel-Palestine and increasingly marginalises Jewish students and their allies in the student movement.”
Photograph: The NUS