Oxford University Jewish Society confirms support for NUS disaffiliation campaign

Society says new NUS president has made ‘anti-Semitic comments’ which ‘render her unfit for office’


Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Friday 13 May 2016 14:43 BST
The University of Oxford, pictured
The University of Oxford, pictured (Getty)

The Jewish Society (JSoc) at Oxford University has confirmed it is officially throwing its support behind the campaign for the institution to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS).

Following a motion at JSoc’s general meeting on Thursday - and a subsequent poll of members - the society said in a statement the motion passed “without opposition.”

The subsequent poll found 84 per cent of members supported disaffiliation, on a turnout of 56 per cent. JSoc added: “Disaffiliation also has the backing of every former president and vice-president of the society over the past two years.”

The move comes as students’ unions and societies from across Britain launch campaigns and confirm referendums following widespread discord over the election of new NUS National President, Malia Bouattia, last month.

Ms Bouattia has faced allegations of anti-Semitism after referring to Birmingham University as “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education” in a 2011 article. Speaking post-election, though, she strongly denied the claims.

JSoc said during the motion’s debate that Ms Bouattia’s comments are “unambiguously and unashamedly anti-Semitic” which “render [her] unfit for the office of the President of the NUS.”

Politicians have also taken issue with the fact that NUS delegates presented arguments against commemorating the Holocaust during a debate in April. Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann, announced plans to convene a rally in Parliament against racism within NUS with former presidents of the Union.

Despite announcing the Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) would not be supporting Ms Bouattia’s bid to become president prior to her election, OUSU president, Becky Howe, told the Independent disaffiliation was not the answer.

She said: “I will be supporting the campaign to remain in NUS. I am hugely concerned by the allegations of anti-Semitism against the president-elect, and I stand by JSoc: there must be a solid commitment to addressing anti-Semitism in the student movement.

“However, acknowledging that disagreeing with a liberation group has been the hardest decision of my presidency, I do not believe disaffiliation is the answer.

“I believe I could not do my job without NUS, and that NUS is a lifeline to our liberation campaigns, which should be central to what all student unions do.

“This term, we’re expecting the Government’s white paper on higher education which, if it’s like the green paper, could take the cap off tuition fees and allow institutions like ours to charge higher fees.

Malia Bouattia interview

“This term, we should be defending our education from marketisation, together. Disunion will, I believe, only do us harm.”

JSoc’s announcement has come as the students’ unions at Lincoln (ULSU) and Newcastle (NUSU) this week announced they would be breaking away from the national student campaigner at the end of the year.

ULSU president, Hayley Jayne Wilkinson, described how, as a group of elected officers, they “no longer felt confident” the NUS represented the views of Lincoln students, while Dominic Fearon - NUSU president - said it was clear Newcastle students felt the NUS “does not prioritise correctly and is not effective at achieving change.”

Exeter University has been the first to announce it will remain affiliated with the NUS after just 144 votes swung the final result into the Stay camp on Friday.

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