A minister has warned the government may suspend all engagement with the National Union of Students and report it to the Charity Commission in the wake of antisemitism allegations.
The NUS has in turn hit back, accusing joint FE and HE minister Michelle Donelan of spreading misinformation and making public allegations without “providing evidence”.
The row has come after Lord Mann, the government’s antisemitism adviser, called for action in response to “escalating revelations about the continuing poor treatment of Jewish students and the lack of leadership on anti-Jewish racism from the union”.
Jewish students have expressed concerns after it emerged that Shaima Dallali, who was elected as NUS president last week, had made anti-Semitic posts on social media ten years ago.
Dallali wrote in 2012 on social media: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews … Muhammad’s army will return #Gaza” – a reference to a massacre of Jews in 628. She has since apologised for the post, calling it “unacceptable”.
Donelan told The Times that she was “deeply concerned by antisemitism within the NUS, including the remarks of the new president” and today posted her comments on Twitter.
“I am actively considering a range of possible measures, including reporting the NUS to the Charity Commission and full suspension from all engagement with the government — to be replaced by alternative student voices — unless they take immediate steps to regain the confidence of Jewish students,” she said.
Last month, The Jewish Chronicle wrote that NUS president Larissa Kennedy told Jewish students they could segregate themselves at a conference concert in Liverpool to avoid hearing “anti-Israel” rapper Lowkey.
Kennedy allegedly put forward the “self-segregation” plan at a meeting with the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), whose members were worried about Lowkey’s appearance at the concert, according to the UJS president.
In reference to those allegations Donelan tweeted that she is “deeply concerned by NUS antisemitism, including the remarks of the new president and the previous suggestions that Jewish students should be ‘segregated’”.
“Students deserve better from their representative organisation,” she added.
The NUS has denied that it ever suggested Jewish students should be segregated.
“It is somewhat concerning to us that public allegations are being made by government ministers without providing evidence,” an NUS spokesperson said.
“The suggestion that NUS claimed Jewish students should be segregated at our 2022 conference is simply untrue.”
However, the spokesperson said that the NUS is taking the antisemitism allegations seriously and claimed, “there is no place for antisemitism within the student movement”.
“We are truly sorry for the concern and worry caused in recent weeks and are working to address any wrongdoing and rebuild trust,” the spokesperson added.
The NUS board is now meeting and will be following “robust internal procedures” including considering appointing an independent external party to support with this.
“We will keep our members and other stakeholders updated as we move through our internal processes. There will be full transparency around any findings and outcomes,” the spokesperson said.
Shaima Dallali was elected NUS UK national president last week, for a two-year term, and will take up their position in July.
Voting was open to 636 delegates from NUS member students’ unions between March 16 and March 28 with an overall 84.5 per cent turnout of voters recorded.
The NUS represents students in both further and higher education institutions.