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Sunday, July 3, 2022

As a Palestinian NUS delegate, I say that tolerance of antisemitism within our student spaces must end

Anas Dayeh discusses the scourge of antisemitism within the NUS and beyond, and advocates standing with Jewish students in the face of prejudice.

We cannot call ourselves anti-racists if we let ourselves compromise on the fight for any ethnic group. This was highlighted in a recent Cherwell article, which showed first-hand the vile antisemitism that exists within the NUS. As the National Union of Students, the job of the organisation is to represent and champion students across the country; however, it is clear is that it is failing in this task. Oxford SU must stand with all of the students it is supposed to represent, and as one of its NUS delegates, it is so disappointing to see our Student Union offer weak statements without consultating any of us delegates.

Antisemitism plagues every part of the NUS. Nowhere is this quite so obvious as in some of the statements and tweets made by the new President-elect of the NUS, Shaima Dallali. These clearly provocative tweets are masked as statements claiming to be in support of Palestine, but it is impossible to see how comments like “‘Khaybar Khaybar O Jews … Muhammad’s army will return”, in the knowledge that the Battle of Khaybar represented an invasion of Khaybar and a massacre of its native Jews, are supposed to advocate for human rights. As a Palestinian, I find it deeply offensive that support for Palestinian human rights is being used to mask blatant antisemitism.

The Oxford SU’s statement is yet another example of how antisemitism plagues our student structures. Jewish students at Oxford should feel safe and secure in the knowledge that their student body is supporting them wherever possible; however, our SU chose to argue that the issue of antisemitism “has been co-opted by the Government and media to further the culture war and silence those who are advocating for Palestinian rights”.

The conflation between the conflict in Israel-Palestine and British Jews must stop. Our Jewish students cannot be made to feel responsible for a conflict that is being waged thousands of miles away. They cannot be made to feel unsafe, as they are hounded and targeted at our university. Instead, we must listen to them and act on their concerns. The advocation of Palestinian rights and valid criticism of the Israeli government should never lead to or justify racism against Jewish students in Britain.

As an NUS delegate and a Palestinian, I feel very strongly about this. I have signed the letter written by the Union of Jewish Students to the Trustee Board of the NUS and included the concerns in my NUS report for the SU’s Student Council on the 26th of April, with the suggestion that the SU retract the previous statement and issue a new one which wholeheartedly supports our Jewish peers. I will be pushing for a motion to stand firmly against antisemitism and strongly in support of an investigation into antisemitism in the NUS.

I urge anyone reading to attend the ‘Campaign Against Antisemitism’ organised by the Oxford University Labour Club every term. The next talk will be in Michaelmas Term, and will provide information on what antisemitism looks like, how we can identify it, and how we can fight against it.

It is time to stand in full solidarity with Jewish students as we fight against all forms of prejudice and racism on campus and in the country. I urge my fellow friends and students not to stand by, but actively to call out antisemitism.

Photograph by Anas Dayeh

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