Update: Brooks has responded to the allegations against him.
NUS Vice-President for Union Development Richard Brooks has reportedly been secretly filmed by an undercover reporter for Al-Jazeera discussing the ousting of Malia Bouattia, the organisation’s president.
According to a report by the Middle East Eye, in the footage he is heard telling the reporter that he has been involved in attempts to remove her from position, and offering to put him in contact with others in the student union who oppose her leadership.
Brooks reportedly says: “[If] you want to speak with someone in a certain geographical area, I’ll point you at the right people.”
He is also reported to have told the journalist, who was posing as Chairman of the Young Labour Friends of Israel, that the Union of Jewish Students funded a trip that he and another Vice-President, Rob Young, made to Israel. Neither declared their trip to the national executive council of the NUS.
The alleged footage would appear to show Brooks violating the boycott of Israel established by the NUS in 2014 when the national executive committee voted to affiliate to the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Former president Megan Dunn was censured in 2015 for failing to implement the boycott, by accepting sponsorship from Coca-Cola, which operates factories in the occupied West Bank, for an NUS awards ceremony. Dunn, and Vice-President Brooks were forced to issue a joint apology stating that “it was a mistake to accept Coca-Cola sponsorship”.
The Al-Jazeera footage allegedly also features former chair of Labour Students Michael Rubin. Rubin was recently embroiled in a scandal regarding Shai Masot, the senior political official of the Israeli Embassy who was discovered to have facilitated the creation of pro-Israeli political groups in the UK. Rubin’s involvement has led to accusations that the Embassy is also politically active in attempts to remove Bouattia.
NUS Women’s Officer Hareem Ghani took to Twitter to condemn Brooks for his alleged actions, saying that she had “never been so disappointed to work for [the NUS]”. Although she did not mention Brooks by name, she bemoaned the “racism, xenophobia and sexism” which Bouattia has faced and castigated the “NUS officers colluding with foreign governments to bring her down”.
“If you’ve ever wondered why Muslim women don’t put themselves up for leadership roles, look no further than this,” she tweeted.
Cambridge NUS delegate Josh Jackson also tweeted a response, saying: “We have actual NUS officials working with the Israeli embassy to oust and organise against the NUS President - gross”.
Jackson told Varsity: “I am shocked and disgusted at these revelations. To see the NUS Vice President colluding with the Israeli Embassy and the very same disgraced Israeli diplomat, Sid Masot, who wanted to ‘take down’ UK MPs, to remove the first black female Muslim NUS President is vile.
“There must be a full investigation and full disclosure of anyone in the NUS, who like Brooks, has been involved with individuals like Sid Masot.
“For agents of Israel or any foreign power, condemned by the United Nations for its illegal settlements, to interfere with domestic UK politics and student politics is abhorrent. Officials in the NUS should not be accepting money or paid for trips by foreign embassies.
“I express my absolute solidarity to the NUS President and I would support calls for Richard Brooks to resign.”
Varsity has contacted the rest of the University’s NUS delegates for comment, as well as Richard Brooks, Robbiie Young, Malia Bouattia, the NUS and the Union of Jewish Students.
Who is Richard Brooks?
Brooks is NUS’s Vice President for Union Development, having been first elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2015. He graduated from the University of Hull – where he was the student union president – in 2013, getting a 2:1 in politics.
He is an outspoken defender of the NUS’s record, and came to speak in Cambridge ahead of the vote on affiliation last year. He did not vote for Malia Bouattia during last year’s NUS conference in Brighton, instead supporting the previous office-holder, Megan Dunn.
In September, he was among nine NUS officers who signed a letter criticising the union for its response to allegations of anti-Semitism.
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