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Jewish students are at risk of being pushed out the biggest body representing university students in Britain because of a culture of “fear, anxiety, hostility and an environment that encourages antisemitic dialogue”, a student union has warned.
Students at Lancaster University said they were “hurt” by the way the National Union of Students was treating the Jewish community, especially by inviting anti-Israel rapper and conspiracy theorist Lowkey to perform at its Liverpool conference last month.
Their warning came as the former Labour MP Lord Mann urged Boris Johnson to refuse to recognise the NUS as the “legitimate voice of students” if it does not cease its “poor treatment of Jewish students.”
In an open letter, the Lancaster students union said: “antisemitism is a major issue within the student movement, and we need serious action to stamp it out.
“We want the NUS leadership to take antisemitism seriously and set an example.”
The decision to invite Lowkey to perform came after the NUS president Larissa Kennedy was criticised for sharing a platform with people known for their controversial views on Jews.
Lord Mann also raised concerns about historical comments made by Shaima Dallali, who was elected NUS president last week, on social media.
Dallali said in 2012: “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yuhud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud.”
In Islamic tradition, the chant – which translates to, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning” – is used when attacking Jews or Israelis and is a reference to a massacre of Jews in the year 628.
The Times reports that Mann has called for tough sanctions to be placed on the NUS in response to the “escalating revelations” concerning the union.
The NUS has told Jewish News: “Larissa takes concerns raised by Students’ Unions extremely seriously and has already sent an initial response directly to the Lancaster team.”
In response to Mann’s comments they stressed: “We want to clarify NUS does not currently receive government funding. NUS is funded through a combination of membership fees, trading income, income for services, and income from our investments.”
NUS continued: The past few weeks will have given Jewish students cause for concern about NUS and many may be wondering if this is a safe space for them. For that we are truly sorry. We want to reaffirm that this is and will continue to be a safe space. Our actions must speak louder than our words so we will be reviewing what has happened over the past few weeks and making changes in the future.
“We think that it is important that this issue is treated incredibly seriously. The voices of Jewish students must be front and centre, and we are happy to receive external expertise as we go forward. But for this process to take place in a constructive manner, we would welcome being approached in good faith instead of learning about plans in the press.”