YOUNG VOICES

NUS President Election Candidate, Malia Bouattia, Responds To 'Anti-Semitism' Claims

One week before she bids to become the union's president.

14/04/2016 17:13 | Updated 20 April 2016

A leading National Union of Students officer has responded to accusations of "anti-Semitism" ahead of her bid to become the organisation's president.

Malia Bouattia, who currently serves as black students officer, is standing to become national president at the NUS annual conference next week.

Bouattia has faced mounting criticism over an article she co-authored five years ago in which she described the University of Birmingham as "something of a Zionist outpost", and for alleged links with an organisation currently blacklisted by the NUS.

She said on Thursday that her political views had been "misconstrued" by those accusing her of anti-Semitism.

An open letter addressed to Bouattia and signed by 56 Jewish society presidents, stated: "Describing large Jewish societies as a challenge is the politics of division and not solidarity which should be the case."

The letter highlights a 2011 blog post, co-authored by Bouattia, which lists a large Jewish society among the challenges at Birmingham University.

"The University of Birmingham is something of a Zionist outpost," the article read.

This prompted the open letter to ask: "Why do you see a large Jewish Society as a problem?"

Read the letter in full, here. 

The letter goes on to allege that she held links with an organisation previously "no-platformed" by the NUS.

It highlighted her acknowledgment of an endorsement by a member of controversial group, Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK (MPACUK)

MPACUK was banned by the NUS from university campuses in 2004 for anti-Semitic propaganda.

Bouattia stoked controversy in 2014 when she railed against a motion which condemned the so-called Islamic State.

It was claimed the motion put forward was Islamophobic and pro-American military intervention.

Bouattia used her Facebook campaign page on Thursday to post an open response to the Jewish students' letter.

I do not now, nor did I five years ago when I contributed to the article cited in your letter, see a large Jewish Society on campus as a problem. Malia Bouattia

She wrote: "I do not now, nor did I five years ago when I contributed to the article cited in your letter, see a large Jewish Society on campus as a problem.

"I celebrate the ability of people and students of all backgrounds to get together and express their backgrounds and faith openly and positively, and will continue to do so.

"I want to be clear that for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish.

She continued: "In fact, Zionist politics are held by people from a variety of different backgrounds and faiths as are anti-Zionist politics.

"It is a political argument, not one of faith.

"I am deeply concerned that my faith and political views are being misconstrued and used as an opportunity to falsely accuse me of antisemitism, despite my work and dedication to liberation, equality and inclusion saying otherwise."

Read her full response, here.

The NUS said on Thursday it wouldn't comment on the open letter because "it is too close to the election," taking place in Brighton next Wednesday.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said: "Jewish students are rightly outraged when they see a candidate for NUS president who sees their Jewish Societies as a threat.

"Jewish students are rightly scared when they see a candidate associating themselves with organisations with a history of antisemitism and they are once again used as an easy target for conspiracy theories."

Update

On Wednesday, Bouattia unseated current NUS president Megan Dunn to become the first black woman leader of the union.

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS