Malia Bouattia's politics are not in the interest of all minoritiesNUS

I’d love to be celebrating the appointment of a black Muslim woman as NUS President. In many ways it’s a fantastic achievement, and I recognise the struggle she must have gone through to get where she is now. But, unfortunately, I can’t celebrate, because sometimes someone’s identity isn’t enough. Your politics also have to be in the interests of all minorities, and, shame though it is, Malia Bouattia’s politics are not.

Bouattia has openly encouraged hatred and violence in the past. She has made it clear that she believes peace talks to be a waste of time and boycotts a “distraction” from real “resistance”. In other words, non-violent methods of resolution aren’t good enough. The fact that she’s talking about the Israel-Palestine conflict is irrelevant – this is a vile attitude to take with regard to any situation. It shows total disrespect for the thousands of peaceful activists around the world who work resiliently to end wars and save lives. This woman tells them that their work is “problematic”? It’s repulsive.

Her accusation of ‘internalised Islamophobia’ is also foul. It stinks of those low, squalid insults adopted by individuals who’ve realised that not everyone from their movement agrees with their methods. It patronises members of her own community who ask for moderation and tells them that they’re too brainwashed to know what’s good for them. It tells them that they are to blame for their own suffering, for not fighting hard enough, or in the right way. Funnily enough, it’s exactly the same kind of accusation I get thrown at me when I criticise Israel. ‘Self-hating Jew,’ say West Bank settlers and advocates of Netanyahu’s government. Bouattia is adopting that language: “self-hating Muslims,” she says.

And from where I’m standing, her views are certainly not far from those of an anti-Semite. I can tell because she uses all those classic tropes to scaremonger about Jewish influence, except, in the usual manner of the radical Left, she veils it as criticism of Israel. So the “Jewish media conspiracy” becomes “Zionist-led media outlets”, and her alma mater, the University of Birmingham, becomes a “Zionist outpost” because of the size of its Jewish Society.

I can also tell because whenever someone like her gets called out on their views, they utterly fail to redeem themselves. It happened with Ken Livingstone in 2005 when he refused to apologise for anti-semitic comments, and it’s been happening with Corbyn. He says: “I oppose all forms of racism”, as though to explicitly oppose ‘anti-Semitism’ would give Jews too much ground. These people don’t know how to say to concerned Jews, ‘I value your presence in this country and want to reduce threats towards you.’ Malia Bouattia can’t say those words. Her open ‘apology’ to the presidents and members of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) was half-hearted and self-defensive. She shows no remorse for her past actions, and speaks only to shake off criticism. This is a pattern that recurs time and time again among people with such toxic views.

So Wednesday was a pretty frightening day for Jewish students, and for all students who favour peaceful cooperation and tolerance. The NUS has done a magnificent job at electing a president who has absolutely no interest in creating unity between faiths on campus. If the NUS delegates who voted really cared about the inclusion of all minorities, they would have dismissed Bouattia as an inappropriate candidate when the criticisms directed at her first came to light. It is not reasonable for someone with such a bad record to occupy this position of authority. So I must conclude that the NUS have lost their sense of reason.

If you agree that Bouattia is unfit to fill the post of NUS president, and that the NUS made a grave error of judgement in appointing her, then I ask you to take action. We have to remind our delegates that we care about our representatives, and that we oppose the incitement of violence and hatred. We need to remind them that we will not tolerate racism from our executive bodies, and that we will protest and appeal and make a bloody huge fuss until every single student on every single campus feels safe and welcomed. Our Union’s priority should be to bring students together, not to separate and divide. While Malia Bouattia is president all I want to do is run and hide. How do I know that she’s not going to say something else that makes me fear for my safety in left-wing circles and among student politicians?

I particularly hope that those whom I’ve previously called on to condemn anti-Semitism and prove their support for Jewish students recognise the place of this event in an increasingly intolerant discourse. I asked last term for Labour supporters to make their spaces safer for Jews; I ask again for you all to open your minds to our experiences and become our advocates. Never before have I felt so alone or scared at university, and never before have Jewish students so desperately needed the support of their non-Jewish peers.

@NoaGendler

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