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Education minister says there is ‘systemic antisemitism’ within the NUS

The government is considering terminating its relationship with the National Union of Students

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi has expressed his concern over antisemitism allegations surrounding the National Union of Students (NUS) and its president-elect Shaima Dallali.

Dallali has recently faced claims of antisemitism over a historic tweet that referenced a massacre of Jewish people. She also penned an article which described a homophobic Muslim cleric as a “moral compass” and was filmed “harassing” students leaving a talk given by a former Israeli politician.

The incoming president has apologised for the tweet, denied harassing students and said her comments relating to the Muslim cleric were taken out of context.

But this is not the first time an NUS president has faced claims of antisemitism. Back in 2016, Malia Bouattia was accused of “anti-semitic rhetoric,” later claiming that her comments had been “misrepresented.”

Addressing the education select committee today, Nadhim Zahawi said: “I am deeply concerned about the NUS. It feels to me that there is systemic antisemitism because this is not the first time, it’s the second time they’ve elected a leader who’s got a history of antisemitic comments and statements.”

He added: “It’s not acceptable, in my view, that anyone in a leadership role in that organisation holds these views or propagates them in any way. I think they need to rebuild, regain the trust of Jewish students because at the moment that trust has collapsed completely and rightly so.”

The NUS is now facing an external investigation over antisemitism claims following outrage among the Jewish community.

The government is also considering axing its relationship with the NUS, with Nadhim Zahawi saying: “No option is off the table.”

As well as the claims personally facing Dallali, Jewish students were also disappointed by the NUS’s decision to host rapper Lowkey at their annual conference.

In an online interview, Lowkey said the mainstream media had “weaponised the Jewish heritage of Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, to try to stave off these genuine inquiries into the nature of the groups fighting in Ukraine.”

The Union of Jewish students (UJS) said the NUS had “attacked the Jewish community, UJS, and supported speakers with extremely challenging views.”

In response, a spokesperson for the NUS said: “We will take any and all actions that are needed to remedy any wrongdoing and rebuild trust with Jewish students as well as our Members, partners and stakeholders.” 

In an interview published in The Guardian this morning, Shaima Dallali described how she’s experienced a wave of online hate since the allegations surfaced.

“I’ve had private messages of people calling me a raghead, people telling me to go and kill myself, calling me a Jew hater and an antisemite. That has been difficult to read,” she said.“And so many threats as well – if I continue to do this then things will happen to me. I just try to delete, to block, I try not to let it get to my head.

“It’s something I receive every day and I’m continuing to receive. It’s affected me mentally and physically. Sometimes I don’t feel safe.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• National Union of Students to be investigated over antisemitism claims

• Incoming NUS president ‘harassed’ Jewish students outside talk by former Israeli politician