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Education committee chief calls for inquiry into NUS over antisemitism claims

Robert Halfon wrote to the Charity Commission to express his ‘dismay’ over the behaviour of the National Union of Students.

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(PA)

(PA)

(PA)

A prominent Tory MP has referred the National Union of Students to the Charity Commission over alleged antisemitism.

Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, wrote to the commission to express his “dismay” over the behaviour of the NUS “in regards to their treatment of Jewish students and the Jewish community’s concerns regarding antisemitism”.

Higher education minister Michelle Donelan last week said she was considering reporting the NUS to the commission, and the Government could suspend engagement with the union over the allegations.

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Michelle Donelan (Aaron Chown/PA)

Michelle Donelan (Aaron Chown/PA)

PA

Michelle Donelan (Aaron Chown/PA)

In March, Jewish students said they had been “failed” by the NUS after controversial rapper Lowkey was invited to appear at a centenary event for the union.

The musician had previously expressed support for former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the party in 2019 over allegations of antisemitism, and said the media had “weaponised the Jewish heritage of (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky”.

Jewish students have also raised concerns about comments made by newly elected NUS president Shaima Dallali on social media.

In 2012, she wrote “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return #Gaza”, referring to a massacre of Jews in 628. She has since apologised for the post.

Mr Halfon wrote: “We are living in a time when antisemitism is at record levels at home and abroad.

“University students can be considered a particularly vulnerable group of people in this context, given their age and the fact that many of them are living away from home for the first time.”

He added that he was “particularly concerned” about antisemitic events that had taken place through the NUS, such as the invitation to Lowkey, real name Kareem Dennis.

Mr Halfon said that while Lowkey had withdrawn from the event, “this was not before the NUS reportedly told Jewish students that they could remove themselves from the event and find an ‘existing safe space for students who do not like loud noise during Lowkey’s performance'”.

Mr Halfon said that instead of advancing its aims of good citizenship, equality and diversity, the NUS had “allowed a culture of discrimination and harassment against Jewish students to brew, to the point where they suggested Jewish students segregate themselves from an event – the very opposite of inclusion”.

He included a dossier of evidence in the letter compiled by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which co-signed the letter.

The dossier said: “Despite (its) ostensible and much-vaunted commitment to anti-racism, NUS has a long record of controversy in relation to Jewish students and antisemitism, dating back decades.”

It follows decades of similar indications that this union does not even aspire to represent Jewish studentsBinyomin Gilbert

The dossier also highlights that antisemitism on campus has reached record levels, with the Community Security Trust recording a 191% increase in incidents last year.

“NUS’s blind spot when it comes to inclusion of Jewish students and openness to their concerns is significant, giving rise not only to a failure of representation but also to a toleration of hostility to the needs of Jewish students within NUS and even instances of outright antisemitism,” it said.

“The result is tangible harm to Jewish students.”

Binyomin Gilbert, programme manager at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “Shaima Dallali’s election as NUS president only a week after the Lowkey scandal is the last straw.

“It follows decades of similar indications that this union does not even aspire to represent Jewish students.”

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