Current NUS President Toni Pearce was vocal and composed in her support of UJS

Current NUS President Toni Pearce, was vocal and composed in her support of UJS

The Union of Jewish Students has welcomed the removal of a divisive amendment to a National Union of Students motion, which claimed anti-Semitism on campus had been fabricated for political gain, writes Jack Mendel

The motion goes to great lengths to combat anti-Semitism, and was successful in being voted for nearly unanimously by the National Union of Students National Executive Committee (NUS NEC.)

The removal of the amendment is a major concession by NUS NEC in light of their decision to formally boycott Israel in August.

The motion was put to NUS NEC by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) “insisting that their peers recognise the damage done by the failure to acknowledge their experiences of anti-Semitism”.

It argued that NUS must continue to be committed in the fight against this form of hatred towards jews (Union of Jewish Students).

With just one abstention, ‘Motion 6: Defeating the rise in anti-Semitism’, was voted for comprehensively.

It was widely praised by Jewish and non-Jewish students alike, who want to fight racism and hatred on campus.

Maggie Suissa, UJS Campaigns Director has said “Jewish students and our allies excelled themselves today and built a broad coalition of support for a strong fight against neo-Nazi groups, racism and anti-Semitism”

The amendment in question (6.1) implied UJS had fabricated anti-Semitism for political gain.

Ella Rose, the UJS President, staunchly combated this claim with a compelling letter to the NUS NEC prior to the meeting.

The source of the controversy is from an NEC meeting on the 4th August, whereby an NEC member made a claim that local BDS (boycott divestments and sanctions) campaigns were used against individual Jewish students and their religious freedom’, according to the first point of amendment 6.1.

This religious freedom relates to a Jewish student being permitted to define their Jewish identity, and the oppression they feel themselves.

But due to NUS NEC’s boycott motion on Israel, Jewish students are ultimately prevented from formally including Israel as a part of their Jewish identity.

When anti-Israel positions are official NUS policy, Jewish students that identify with Israel are going to feel oppressed according to NUS’s definition. 

The result of this situation is NUS NEC claiming that UJS had fabricated claims of anti-Semitism, because they cannot officially recognise that anti-Israel positions may be considered as a form of oppression.

In removing this amendment, there is an implicit concession that UJS did not indeed use anti-Semitism for political gain, but that the anti-Israel hostility that Jewish students personally felt, was a legitimate form of oppression, according to the students, which is all that matters.

In labelling this claim of anti-Semitism as ‘fabricated’, and then removing it, NEC exposed their contradiction. They support a policy of allowing self-definition of identity, and simultaneously tried to dictate to Jewish students that they cannot hold Israel as a part of their identity, and anti-Israel sentiment as a form of oppression to that identity.

It shouldn’t be NUS NEC’s role to define the oppression that Jewish students feel. It should be up to Jewish students.

NUS’s President, Toni Pearce must be given significant credit for helping this amendment to be removed, after outlining that she would stand down the chair of the debate if this amendment was not removed, even publishing an article recognising Jewish student’s right to self-define their identity and oppression , like any other minority.

Suissa outlined that “following quickly mobilised and far reaching activism by Jewish students and their J-Soc leaders, together with powerful leadership from Toni Pearce (the NUS President) and Ella Rose (UJS President), the insidious amendment accusing Jewish students and UJS of fabricating anti-Semitism was withdrawn.”

She continues to outline that the primary gain from this motion was the combating of anti-Semitism, outlining that “Jewish students and our allies excelled themselves today and built a broad coalition of support for a strong fight against neo-Nazi groups, racism and anti-Semitism.”

“When Jewish students stand together and stand up for themselves, the student movement pays attention.”