Universities minister considers reporting NUS to Charity Commission over antisemitism

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Universities minister considers reporting NUS to Charity Commission over antisemitism

Michelle Donelan says she is “deeply concerned by antisemitism within the NUS”, and added: "Students deserve better from their representative organisation."

Outgoing NUS President Larissa Kennedy.
Outgoing NUS President Larissa Kennedy.

The Government could suspend its engagement with the National Union of Students because of antisemitism allegations, the universities minister has said.

Michelle Donelan said she is “deeply concerned by antisemitism within the NUS”, and added she is considering reporting the union to the Charity Commission.

Her comments came as the Government’s antisemitism adviser, Lord Mann, called for action over “escalating revelations about the continuing poor treatment of Jewish students and the lack of leadership on anti-Jewish racism from the union”, The Times reported.

In March, Jewish students said they had been “failed” by the NUS after the controversial rapper Lowkey was invited to appear at a centenary event for the union.

The musician had previously expressed support for former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the party in 2019 over allegations of antisemitism, and said the media had “weaponised the Jewish heritage of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (right) said universities have been ‘tolerant of casual or indeed systematic antisemitism.’ in response to a question about the NUS inviting controversial rapper Lowkey (left) to perform at a concert, 23 March, 2022.

Jewish students have also raised concerns about comments made by newly elected NUS president Shaima Dallali on social media.

In 2012, she wrote “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return #Gaza”, referring to a massacre of Jews in 628. She has since apologised for the post.

She said: “This is a tweet I posted 10 years ago during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2012. This reference made as a teenager was unacceptable and I unreservedly apologise.”

Ms Donelan said: “I am deeply concerned by antisemitism within the NUS, including the remarks of the new president and the previous suggestions that Jewish students should be ‘segregated’. Students deserve better from their representative organisation.

“I am actively considering a range of possible measures, including reporting the NUS to the Charity Commission and full suspension from all engagement with Government – to be replaced by alternative student voices – unless they take immediate steps to regain the confidence of Jewish students.”

An NUS spokesman said: “NUS is taking the antisemitism allegations seriously. There is no place for antisemitism within the student movement. We are truly sorry for the concern and worry caused in recent weeks and are working to address any wrongdoing and rebuild trust.

“The NUS board will be following our robust internal procedures, including considering appointing an independent external party to support with this.

“Lord Mann’s suggestion the Government should ‘de-recognise’ NUS is very serious and we ask for dialogue and due process to take their course.”

A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students said: “It is vital that NUS take responsibility for their actions in failing to support Jewish students. We welcome the letter from Lord Mann and ask the new leadership of NUS to take these matters seriously.”

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