There are growing calls in the National Union of Students for one of its vice presidents to resign after he was caught on camera plotting to overthrow the union’s elected president, Malia Bouattia.
The Electronic Intifada reports that Shelly Asquith, another NUS vice president, has accused Richard Brooks of colluding with the Israeli embassy to “effectively destabilize the union.” She calls Brooks’ act “straightforwardly anti-democratic and dangerous.”
Bouattia, the first Muslim president of NUS, is a vocal supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.
“I could never have” Malia Bouattia as leader, Richard Brooks told an undercover reporter in the Al Jazeera film, The Lobby. Union structures “don’t usually allow a vice president to go and publicly criticize your president on national radio,” Brooks admitted, “but you got to do what you got to do.”
Brooks told “Robin,” the undercover reporter, that he had held “little secret purpose meetings” with two other pro-Israel student activists about “how to get moderate people with good politics” elected.
One of the people Brooks mentions as being in his “secret purpose meetings” was an officer of the Union of Jewish Students, an organization that has received funding from the Israeli embassy.
Brooks’ secret meetings were also attended by Michael Rubin, the parliamentary officer of the Labour Friends of Israel.
Brooks also told Robin that he had been “helping organize” people in the NUS to oppose Bouattia.
The film has already led to the resignation of Shai Masot from his position as senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, and has prompted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to demand a government investigation of Israeli interference in UK politics.
Palestinian students in the UK are also calling on Brooks to resign as vice president “with immediate effect.”
“This constitutes a massive betrayal of the trust placed within Richard Brooks by the students who elected him, in addition to demonstrating his misplaced and misguided priorities, none of which should include colluding with the Israeli embassy,” the students say in an open letter.
The signatories say that Bouattia has been targeted “based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism.”
The National Union of Students has long been a high-profile target for the Israeli government. After the union voted to back the BDS movement in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smeared it as a supporter of ISIS.
Brooks responded in a statement that he had referred himself to the NUS for investigation and that he expected to be “fully exonerated.”