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NUS National Conference Hears Arguments Against Commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day

'Ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides'.

20/04/2016 12:07 | Updated 21 April 2016

The National Union of Students conference today heard arguments against the official commemoration of the Holocaust.

An amendment to a motion combating anti-Semitism on campuses argued that "education is vital" and the NUS should coordinate events on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Yet some attendees sparked controversy by speaking against the move.

NUS/YouTube
Darta Kaleja spoke against singling out the Holocaust for commemoration

Darta Kaleja, from Chester University, argued against the amendment on the grounds that it singled out the Holocaust and ignored other atrocities.

She told the conference: "I am against the NUS ignoring and forgetting other mass genocides and prioritising others.

"It suggests some lives are more important than others.

"When during my education was I taught about the genocides in Tibet or Rwanda?

"It is important to commemorate all of them."

Speaking in favour of the amendment, Sam Gold, of Leeds University, said: "The living memory of the Holocaust is dying."

Referring to the official NUS commemoration this year, he asked: "How come on Holocaust Memorial Day there was just one tweet, and one blog?"

Gold pleaded with the conference to support the motion in order to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive within the NUS.

NUS/YouTube
Sam Gold, of Leeds University, spoke in favour of officially commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day
When during my education was I taught about the genocides in Tibet or Rwanda? Darta Kaleja, Chester University

Another against said: "Of course there shouldn't be anti-Semitism but it's not about one set of people."

One speaker for the motion said the NUS "had a problem" with anti-Semitism. It was a "scourge" on the student movement, they added.

The amendment to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day and the motion against anti-Semitism on campuses both passed into NUS policy.

This means a review into institutional racism in the NUS will now be broadened to specifically include anti-Semitism.

Both Labour and Conservative MPs were among public figures to respond to the debate.

Sir Eric Pickles, the former cabinet minister and current special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, said the debate was "unbelievable".

Labour MP John Mann announced he is to lead a rally against racism in the NUS attended by former presidents of the union.

Earlier, the Brighton conference passed a policy to restrict messages on anonymous apps such as Yik Yak in order to make campus elections "safe".

And black students officer Malia Bouattia dramatically unseated current NUS president Megan Dunn during a tense election.

Bouattia said in a statement on Wednesday night that she has consistently fought racism "in all its forms".

"As president of NUS, I will continue to encourage students to oppose inequality, oppression, including racism, and injustice both at home and abroad," she said.

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