Maggie Suissa, 24

Maggie Suissa

By Maggie Suissa, former UJS campaigns director.

After five years in the student movement, I’ve been inspired by the strength shown by so many leaders – yet disappointed by some of the decisions within our movement.

Despite NUS NEC (National Union of Students, National Executive Council) starting and ending their year voting for BDS (boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Israel), Jewish students have repeatedly stood up to the aggressive nature of this debate, willing again and again to put their politics on the line to fight for what they believe in.

I’m tired of everyone saying students are apathetic and that they don’t care about Israel Palestine.

They do.

Too many people pretend that Judaism isn’t directly connected to Israel. In reality, there are hundreds of Jewish students who feel deeply connected to Israel, both in relation to their faith and their identity.

Ignoring that these students exist is unfair, undemocratic and portrays an inaccurate picture of the Jewish student movement. Indeed, there are students for whom today’s Israel is not an integral part of their Jewish identity – but Jewish affinity with Israel stretches far beyond 1948 and 1967.

Despite this, there are areas of the student movement that want to dictate to Jewish students their identities, their experiences on campus, and – worst of all – their experiences of anti-Semitism.

NUS needs to stop treating Jewish students as if we all look and think alike.

Jewish people can define as a nation, a people, a religious group, an ethnicity and a cultural group.

We can be found all around the world, creating an amazing diversity which informs our wide-ranging practices, beliefs and identities.

The exclusion of so many Jewish students from student solidarity, ignoring and dismissing their oppression, is a failing of NUS.

It’s not good enough to tell Jewish students that they don’t fit into the existing model. Without allowing Jewish students to feel as if they can be an active part within anti-racism and anti-fascist groups, any attempts on the part of NUS to tackle anti-Semitism (and other issues of Jewish interest) are wholly undermined. Moreover, they are insincere.

Groups that claim to fight anti-Semitism but stifle Jewish students’ voices because of politics in Israel and Palestine are not welcoming or accessible.

If the student movement doesn’t change soon, it will lose its long-standing credibility and its reputation of standing up to defend, support and, most importantly, represent all students.

It’s time for a change – and that starts with listening.

Jewish students value their friends in the student movement, but this appreciation and respect needs to be reciprocal.

Attempts to disassociate Judaism from Israel and Palestine stem from at best, misunderstanding and at worst, anti-Semitism.

We know that conflict abroad affects minority communities back home – and the Jewish community is no exception.

Historically, the national student movement and the Jewish student movement have worked together to make campus life better for everyone.

Let’s see the re-emergence of this inspiring student movement of the past.

Let’s see a Union that listens to, respects and values its constituents, championing their opinions.

Let’s see an NUS that truly celebrates its Jewish members – allowing for their diversity, allowing for their needs, but above all, allowing for their identities.