The National Union of Students (NUS) has been banned from official Government contact due to ongoing allegations of antisemitism within the organisation. Despite the NUS’s commitment to collaborating with Jewish students, ministers have acted on concerns raised by groups such as the Union of Jewish Students. This follows the election of Shaima Dallali as the new NUS president: alleged historic comments, including a tweet from ten years ago referencing a AD628 assault on Jews, caused the UJS to raise concerns. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi stated that “Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them”, announcing the suspension.
Minister for higher and further education in England Michelle Donelan has written to the electoral body overseeing this year’s NUS presidential election asking for information on how the election was conducted. The suspension only affects the NUS’s relationship with the Westminster government, not those in other countries. Matt Western, Labour’s shadow universities minister, said Jewish students should be able to participate in student organisations in safety and called for the independent inquiry set up by the NUS to address these issues satisfactorily.
The NUS represents seven million students at universities and colleges, with 600 student unions affiliated. During the suspension, the NUS will be removed from all government groups and replaced with alternative student representatives. The Department for Education said that the situation will be reviewed as substantive action is demonstrated. A spokesperson for the NUS revealed an independent investigation would be launched with a QC to be appointed next week, in consultation with the Union of Jewish Students.
After Dallali’s election, she received a lot of online Islamophobic and racist abuse. Black Muslim women are frequently subjected to such attacks, and Dallali voiced the belief that this was something to be anticipated. In response to the NUS suspension, NUS officials expressed disappointment that the decision had been publicised in the media rather than being shared with them directly.