Writing in The Times, the President of the Union of Jewish Students, Josh Seitler, has called on the President of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, to fight antisemitism head on, or step down. In a scathing article, Seitler told Bouattia: “you have failed to act and so I am forced to say that the time for action is fast running out; it’s time to act now or it might be time for you to step down.”
Bouattia has previously called Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost in higher education” because it has “the largest Jsoc [Jewish student society] in the country.” She has railed against “Zionist-led media outlets”, defended Palestinian terrorism as “resistance” and voted against condemning ISIS. When called on by Campaign Against Antisemitism and countless student leaders to retract her comments, she penned an article in The Guardian claiming that her accusers were simply sexists and racists. Bouattia then drew further condemnation in July when she used her casting vote to strip Jewish students of their ability to elect their own representative. Student leaders have even gone so far as to write open letters expressing embarrassment and apologising to Jewish students for the actions of Bouattia and the National Union of Students.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee’s report into the rise of antisemitism in the UK released two weeks ago said that Bouattia “does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of antisemitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students’ concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns…Referring to Birmingham University as a ‘Zionist outpost’ (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism.” In response, members of the National Union of Students’ Executive Committee joined an open letter claiming that the Home Affairs Committee was on a mission to “delegitimise NUS, and discredit Malia Bouattia”.
Bouattia continues to refute both criticism and attempts at dialogue, including from Campaign Against Antisemitism.