Published by The Telegraph on 21/07/16
The NUS has always been slightly unsure how to deal with Jewish students.
Its very existence is predicated on a cuddly form of identity politics which aims to embrace students of any race, sexuality, gender and religion. It hopes to be a bastion of inclusivity; representing the unrepresented who have been neglected by our insensitive society.
That’s why its latest decision to block Jewish students from selecting a representative on the union’s Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Committee seems so bizarre.
Purely from an epistemological standpoint, having a Jewish representative chosen by Jewish students seems fairly intuitive given that Jews have, well, borne their fair share of fascism in the past century.
Of course, Jewish students aren’t the first to be forcefully disenfranchised by the NUS. In March, the NUS made public its preference for competitive victim-hugging over representation by banning gay representatives from its LGBT+ Campaign because gay men aren’t sufficiently oppressed.
There’s no doubt the NUS’ recent treatment of Jews has been pretty dismal. In April, the NUS voted to scrap Holocaust Memorial Day because it is not “inclusive”. For over a year now, it has supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel – although, rather amusingly, a former NUS President was willing to accept sponsorship from Coco-Cola, despite the fact the firm operates factories in Israeli settlements. Most recently, its current president, Malia Bouattia, came under fire for labelling the University of Birmingham a “Zionist outpost”.
It appears the NUS is happy to be an inclusive organisation as long as its inclusivity does not apply to Jewish students. This has led many of its critics to instinctively label it as “anti-Semitic”. What these examples demonstrate, however, is that the NUS isn’t inherently anti-Semitic, but instead has tendency to conflate Judaism with Zionism.
Its blasé regard towards the status of Jewish students is merely a result of its obsessive focus on Zionism, which, in recent years, has begun to acquiesce to anti-Semitic currents within its ranks.
Crucially, the NUS’ decision to stop Jewish students from choosing a Jewish representative should not be regarded as symptomatic of its supposed anti-Semitic roots, but rather its unrepresentative nature.
While the NUS labels itself as a “union of students”, it is evident the vast majority of the student populace don’t care for it. NUS delegates are elected by a tiny proportion of the student population and the motions they propose pander to an even smaller, illiberal, identity politics-driven minority.
Of course, this suits the NUS perfectly; allowing it to operate within its isolated bubble and, from time to time, venture into the real world to exert its supposed moral superiority.
Ultimately, the disenfranchisement of Jewish students from the NUS’ Anti-Racism and Anti-Fascism Committee isn’t a massive blow for the fight against campus anti-Semitism. It would be seriously worrying if Jewish students needed an organisation which has introduced jazz hands to replace “triggering” clapping to fight their cause. The chosen people don’t need safe spaces, trigger-warnings and continuous no-platforming to combat racism and fascism.
All we need is free discussion and a willingness to debate – something the NUS can’t provide us with.