Jewish students took the community’s call for action over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party to the annual gathering of the National Union of Students in Glasgow this week, in some cases even when it wasn’t welcomed.
Among those voicing concern was Sheffield student Gabe Milne, who gave an impromptu speech on the conference floor, shaming those who liken allegations of anti-Semitism to a “smear” against the Labour Party’s leadership.
Earlier, in a tweeted message, Labour Students BAME Caucus seemed to criticise Corbyn, saying: “We would like to offer our solidarity to all Jewish members of the Labour Party. We have been disgusted at the recent rhetoric around anti-Semitism and the disregard from even the highest levels of the party.”
Milne, a Labour supporter, said anti-Semitism was “creeping into my political party, which constantly fails to live up to its professed ideal of anti-racism… I am truly fed up of anti-Semitism being dismissed as a smear, Jewish voices being ignored or belittled, being told they cannot define their own oppression”.
It comes amid an important conference for Jewish Students, two of whom – Izzy Lenga and Jessica Levy – were running for positions as NUS vice-presidents.
At a fringe event, the Union of Jewish Students registered supporters for the group’s next Poland trip, which is run in conjunction with the Holocaust Education Trust for sabbatical officers, while also doubling the number signing up as stem cell donors for the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan Trust.
The NUS Conference, which is being held in Glasgow, will feature policy debates on subjects such as interfaith work, hate crime and swastikas, the Dubs Amendment to take more unaccompanied child refugees, and free speech on campus.
“I am truly fed up of anti-Semitism being dismissed as a smear”@nusuk wouldn’t let @gabe_milne_96 make this speech on stage, so he took it to the conference floor.#NUSConference #nusnc18 pic.twitter.com/VfSmouaWKw
— Tom Harwood (@tomhfh) March 27, 2018
Gwyneth Sweatman, NUS Wales Women’s Officer and President-elect, who chaired last night’s session, said: “Last night there was confusion on conference floor, which caused offence to many Jewish students. As a proud member of UJS I will always stand in solidarity with Jewish students standing up to anti-Semitism, and I am glad to see the statement was heard this morning.”
An NUS Spokesperson said: “The National Union of Students believes that all forms of hate and prejudice are unacceptable. NUS will continue to engage with the Jewish students and the community to identify ways in which we can ensure our spaces are inclusive and accessible to all students. NUS will continue to implement and practice the guidelines from the Jewish Students’ Survey and encourage the student movement to do the same. We will always strive to create a sector, organisation and movement that gives everyone the opportunity to learn, share ideas and lead without fear.
“We want to offer our sincerest apologies to Jewish students for any offence caused.”