UK student leaders reject “partisan” anti-Semitism report
Asa Winstanley, Electronic Intifada, Oct 19 2016
NUS president Malia Bouattia. (NUS)
Hundreds of officers and activists in the UK’s National Union of Students are defending their president, Malia Bouattia. In an open letter, the student leaders condemn an influential parliamentary committee’s “selective and partisan” report on anti-Semitism in the UK, which was published on Sunday. The NUS itself has also criticized the report’s politicized approach to anti-Semitism. The student leaders say that the Home Affairs Select Committee’s report is an attempt “to delegitimize NUS and discredit Malia Bouattia as its president.” The parliamentary committee is dominated by the governing Conservative Party. Despite admitting there is no evidence that Labour under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn is any more prone to anti-Semitism than any other party, the report overwhelmingly focuses on the Labour Party. Corbyn on Sunday hit back that the select committee was guilty of “politicizing anti-Semitism” and neglecting to combat it in the Conservative Party. The report has also come in for flak over its call to outlaw criticism of Zionism. First published Sunday night, the open letter has now garnered the signatures of almost 400 student leaders.
The select committee’s report claims that Bouattia’s characterization of the University of Birmingham as an outpost of Zionism “smacks of outright racism.” In a 2011 blog post, Bouattia wrote that the leadership of the university’s Jewish society was “dominated by Zionist activists.” The open letter demands a “revised report that is impartial” and the retraction of what it says are false statements about NUS policy on campus anti-Semitism, “along with an apology to those who have been vilified by the inaccuracies and partisan biases it contains.” The report includes a large section on anti-Semitism in UK universities, which mostly focuses on Bouattia. It criticizes her record as a campaigner for Palestinian rights, saying her “choice of language” suggests “a worrying disregard for her duty to represent all sections of the student population and promote balanced and respectful debate.” Bouattia, an advocate of BDS, has faced attack from right-wing media and Israel lobby groups since she was elected NUS president in April.
In their open letter, the student leaders say they are “alarmed” at how Bouattia “is being singled out for her views on Israel by the Committee in its report, and depicted as the source of anti-Semitism in higher education.” On Sunday, an NUS spox said the report “fails to address the reality for students” and that it was “partial and inaccurate in relation to NUS work in tackling anti-Semitism.” Bouattia welcomed parts of the report, saying that its “data on increasing anti-Semitism and targeting of the Jewish community is deeply concerning.” She affirmed that “there is no place for anti-Semitism in the student movement.” The student leaders’ letter said that the report’s focus on the Labour Party and the NUS “casts doubt upon its authors’ intentions.” They reject the parliamentary committee’s recommendation suggesting that “legitimate criticism of Zionism … be considered as hate-crimes by the government, effectively equating them with anti-Semitism.” The student leaders state:
Zionism is a political ideology that continues to express itself through the actions of the state of Israel. It is one that is held or rejected by both Jewish people and non-Jewish people. As with all political ideologies, it should be open to discussion, scrutiny and debate.
Plus this, h/t Lisa: