Jewish students are to vote on a motion to suspend working arrangements with the National Union of Students, citing concerns over its president, Malia Bouattia, who has been critical of Israel.
Members of the Union of Jewish Students will have their say at their annual conference on 11 December, but UJS leaders said that even if the motion passed, they would continue working with the NUS on a research project seeking to understand the experience of Jewish students on campus.
The motion was put forward by Jewish students Binyomin Gilbert, a History student at Goldsmiths University, and Avrahum Singer, an Economics student at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
Gilbert said in a recent blog that the response to a recent Home Affairs Select Committee report into anti-Semitism, which was critical of NUS President Malia Bouattia, “reminds us as Jewish students that our student representatives do not have our backs and do not take our concerns seriously”.
Relations between UJS and NUS have been tense since Bouattia’s election in April, but UJS does not have a formal affiliation with NUS, unlike university students’ unions, so even if passed the motion would not lead to a formal disaffiliation, as has happened at universities like Newcastle, Hull, Lincoln and Loughborough.
However, the two unions have collaborated in the past, particularly on anti-racism and anti-fascism, so if the motion were to pass, then future work on similar projects would be suspended. them on future similar projects.
Last month Bouattia said: “I am listening to the concerns of Jewish students and the Jewish community and want to offer reassurances that I will do all I can to combat anti-Semitism. As I’ve said before, I regret that my choice of words in the past has been interpreted as otherwise. I am sorry that this has caused offence – this was never my intention.”
She added: “Our movement has students who hold a variety of deeply held beliefs on Israel-Palestine, but this is a political argument, not one of faith or ethnicity.”
An independent review of race and racism in the NUS, including anti-Semitism, is currently being conducted by the Runnymede Trust, which is due to report its finding shortly. Bouattia said the report “will inform our future work”.