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PSC expresses deep concern at the outcome of an investigation into antisemitism in the NUS

Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has today issued a statement expressing its deep concerns at the outcome of the investigation by Rebecca Tuck KC into antisemitism within the National Union of Students (NUS). The report released today follows the dismissal of NUS President Shaima Dallali in November 2022, a decision PSC condemned.

From the outset of the investigation, PSC has made clear its fundamental concerns about the framework for investigation and the failure to acknowledge how a conflation of antisemitism with legitimate critique of Israeli oppression has been used to effectively silence Palestinians and those who support their rights. We have also raised concerns about the disproportionate involvement of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), who were given significant authority in the framing of the investigation and the appointment of the Independent Investigator

These concerns have been justified in the content of the report which both in its main body and recommendations reinforces the conflation of antisemitism and legitimate advocacy for Palestinian rights. The report’s main focus is antisemitism in the context of discourse about Palestinian rights. It calls for such discourse to be nuanced. There can be nothing nuanced in enabling Palestinians to articulate the facts about what they are being subjected to by the Israeli state—forcible transfer, home demolitions, arbitrary detention and torture, and armed violence, including the assassination of human rights defenders. It is grotesque to suggest that debates about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), a set of non-violent tactics to end complicity in these abuses, should be facilitated to ensure that nuance is maintained, that “both sides of the argument” are heard, and that students who identify with Israel are protected from discomfort.

Astonishingly, in a multi-page section on different interpretations of Zionism, not a single Palestinian perspective is cited. Throughout the report, there is no mention of Palestinian students, or the impact this report will have on their engagement with the NUS and student activism.

The NUS has, especially in its recent history , shown some commitment to defending the rights of Palestinians as a central aspect of its broader commitment to progressive international causes and liberation struggles. If, as it has indicated to PSC, it intends to sustain this commitment and live up to its obligations to be an anti-racist body, then it needs to take some urgent, confidence-building steps. This includes making it clear that being consistently anti-racist means opposing the conflation of antisemitism with advocacy for Palestinian rights.

Ben Jamal, PSC Director, said:

“This process of investigation has been driven by pressure exerted upon the NUS by the Government and the UJS to accept a conflation of antisemitism with legitimate advocacy for Palestinian rights. The outcome sought by these parties is to reduce the space for legitimate critique of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and calls for action to address it, including support for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). A consistent anti-racism means opposing antisemitism and standing in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle against Israel’s system of apartheid. The NUS needs to make clear that it understands these truths and genuinely wishes to continue to be an ally in real anti-racist work. This understanding is more crucial than ever in the context of the most far-right government in Israel’s history, which is naked and shameless in its embrace of anti-Palestinian racism and violence, rejection of Palestinian statehood, and further annexation of Palestinian territory”.

The full PSC Statement is here.

Date: 12 January 2023