Charity Commission opens probe into student union while under leadership of suspended NUS head

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Charity Commission opens probe into student union while under leadership of suspended NUS head

EXCLUSIVE: Suspended NUS president Shaima Dallali is at the centre of 'on-going case' by the Commission into its attempt to drop the IHRA definition and launch a BDS campaign.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Former president of NUS, Shaima Dallali [Twitter].
Former president of NUS, Shaima Dallali [Twitter].

The Charity Commission has opened an “on-going case” into City University Student Union, relating to an attempt to drop the IHRA definition of antisemitism and launch a BDS campaign when suspended NUS leader Shaima Dallali was the president.

Jewish News understands that a complaint has been made to the Commission after City SU’s board of trustees, which were chaired at the time by Dallali, announced a referendum in March 2021 into whether the university should drop its adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

A further complaint was made over a decision in December 2021 to proceed with a campaign by City SU to boycott Israeli companies.

It also claimed that City SU was given legal advice not to pursue the BDS campaign because it would breach charity law.

Shaima Dallali.

City SU operates as an independent charitable body from the acclaimed City University.

The decision not to proceed with the anti-Israel boycott was also backed at the City SU annual general meeting.

But Dallai, suspended last week from her NUS president’s role amid an independent QC led probe into antisemitism claims, is alleged to have decided to go ahead with the BDS campaign, ignoring legal guidance and the democratic structures of the SU.

A spokesperson for the Charity Commission confirmed to Jewish News: “We are aware of these concerns and have an ongoing case into City, University of London Students’ Union. We are engaging with the trustees.”

The Commission, which stressed it had made no findings at this time, said its remit relates to trustee decision-making and oversight. It added the charity is not the subject of a statutory inquiry or formal investigation.

It is understood that there is a meeting of the City SU board set to take place this week to discuss the on-going investigation into the charity.

Meanwhile, Jewish News has also learned that Dallali was suspended as NUS president earlier this month after yet further evidence came to light of alleged antisemitism.

Sources confirmed that this evidence did not involve historic social media posts.

QC Rebecca Tuck has been conducting an inquiry into antisemitism claims against both Dallali and the NUS as an institution.

It is thought to be the first time in the 100-year history of NUS that its president has been suspended.

Jewish News revealed earlier this year how she had posted inflammatory comments such as “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza” on Twitter in 2014, for which Dallali apologised for, saying she is now a “different person.”

But it is understood that the new evidence was deemed strong enough to suspend her as president.

An NUS disciplinary board will make a final recommendation on the action to be taken against Dallali following the inquiry by Tuck QC.

This is expected in the next few weeks.

In December 2021 students at London’s City University have overwhelmingly voted to implement a “boycott of Israel and its occupation.”

It came after City University’s ‘Friends of Palestine Society’ – set-up by Dallali – called on the University and its union to recognise and implement BDS measures to limit the institution’s ties with Israel and its occupation.

In a statement by City’s Friends of Palestine society, it hailed the vote as “a victory for the Palestinian cause and for the BDS movement,” and said that it will be working with the University and its union “to initiate investigations into its involvement with companies complicit in Israel’s illegal actions within international law.”

It urged the Union’s Board of Trustees to approve the motion, however, as that would finalise it and ensure its implementation. “Failing to support this motion, which has been democratically voted for by students, would mean that the Trustees would be failing City students and democracy.”

Pro-Israel lobby group UK Lawyers For Israel were among those to complain to the Commission about the decision by City SU to proceed with the BDS campaign.

In March they complained to the Commission alleging City Students’ Union had conducted an unlawful BDS campaign targeting Israel.

City University said they would not be commenting on the matter, but directed Jewish News to City SU, who did not respond to our request for comment.

Following her suspension as NUS president Dallai tweeted:”I always knew it would be difficult being a Black, Muslim woman in the public eye but the racist and Islamophobic abuse I have been subjected to and death threats I have received since becoming NUS president are not ok.

“There are those who are working tirelessly to make sure that women who look like me never feel welcomed or safe in public positions. I’m also working hard to make sure that no Black, Muslim women who assume this role in the future has to ever experience what I’ve experienced. ”

Jewish News also contacted Dallali for comment over the Charity Commission probe.

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