Students at Queen Mary University, London, have voted to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS), and have accused the student body of “anti-Palestinian racism,” after its Muslim president Shaima Dallali was fired last month.
In a vote last week at the university’s student union (during which a vote in favour of the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement was also passed) the following motion was passed:
“Recently the NUS, for the first time in its entire history, removed its democratically elected President. The removal of an elected leader is an affront to the democratic nature that the NUS purports to obtain.
“Despite its commitment to anti-racism, the NUS has contributed to the spread of anti- Palestinian racism. This punitive reaction reflects a political context that has sought to toxify Palestine and is part of a wider pattern of endemic and systematic bigotry and prejudice. The Association of Student Activism for Palestine has said that the removal of the elected President Shaima Dallali is a direct attack on pro-Palestine student activism.
“The NUS has long ignored calls from Muslim students, organisations and the representative Muslim student body Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) – who have said that NUS is no longer a safe space for Muslim students.
“We continue to pay high affiliation fees to NUS, despite NUS scaling back significantly on its activities and campaigns. These fees should be reinvested into the wider student experience. What impact will this have? This will provide students a further means of having a democratic say in how the Union is organised and how our money is spent.”
The Queen Mary motions were passed in spite of strong opposition from the university’s Jewish society.
The Queen Mary JSoc and the Union of Jewish Students said in a statement: “We are disappointed yet unsurprised by the motions passed last night at Queen Mary Students’ Union endorsing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel and dismissing concerns about antisemitism and homophobia in the National Union of Students. This follows last year’s annual student meeting in which Jewish students were denied the right to define antisemitism.
“At this year’s meeting, no amendments to a highly contentious motion were allowed in spite of the repeated requests by Jewish students. It is vital that amidst a KC led investigation into antisemitism, Jewish students are free to express their experiences of antisemitism in the student movement.
“Jewish students at QMUL have been clear throughout the debate that these motions would lead to an environment on campus which is hostile for Jewish students, leading to division and preventing the very measures needed for peace. They now feel betrayed and let down by their Students’ Union, with many Jewish students now feeling unsafe in their own Students’ Union which shrugs its shoulders at the expense of Jewish students.
“This environment in which Jewish student experiences are ignored and silenced cannot go on. If any students need support they can reach out to Queen Mary JSoc or UJS at this time and always.”
In March this year the National Union of Students elected Shaima Dallali as its new president at its annual conference in Liverpool. Dallali, who is of Sudanese-Tunisian heritage, was elected for a two-year term.
But in May the government cut ties with the NUS over “concerns of antisemitism” after Jewish students took offence to a 2012 tweet in which Ms Dallali wrote: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza.” The 27-year-old has since apologised for the tweet, saying she is now “a different person.”
But last month an NUS disciplinary panel concluded that Dallali, who is an outspoken defender of Palestinian rights, should be removed from her post after reviewing the recommendations of KC Rebecca Tuck’s report into antisemitism allegations.
Following the sacking, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies called on Muslim students to boycott the National Union of Students.
Meanwhile, Dallali, is pursuing the matter through her solicitors.