Investigation finds ‘shocking’ antisemitism in UK’s student union
Probe reveals bullying of Jews, blood libels, conspiracy theories in National Union of Students; Board of Deputies charges group with ‘litany of failures’
An independent investigation has found that the UK’s National Union of Students failed to protect Jewish members from “numerous instances” of antisemitism over the past decade.
The investigation published on Thursday reported that Jewish students were bullied and ostracized in the union because of their religion and views on Israel.
In May 2022, the union appointed law expert Rebecca Tuck to lead the investigation after 20 former presidents of the union raised concerns over antisemitism within the organization. The National Union of Students is a confederate association of around 600 students’ unions, representing more than seven million students.
Tuck’s report is based on interviews with 46 groups and individuals.
According to the findings, discrimination against Jewish students included “the employing of ancient antisemitic tropes, from blood libels to Rothschild conspiracies,” as well as holding Jewish members responsible for Israeli actions.
It also said that the National Union of Students’ internal procedures to deal with complaints were either inadequate or had been ignored.
“For at least the last decade, Jewish students have not felt welcome or included in NUS spaces or elected roles. There have been numerous instances of antisemitism within NUS,” Tuck said in the report.
One anonymous student quoted in the report said she “never initially entered student politics to talk solely about Jewish issues, but my time in the movement became defined with defending Jewish students’ rights to even be in the room.”
“So much of the abuse and treatment I faced was down to the movement’s obsession with the Israel/ Palestine conflict and my assumed connection to it,” the student said.
The report made 11 recommendations, including regular antisemitism training for union staff and providing educational materials on antisemitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In a statement, the union said the report was “a detailed and shocking account of antisemitism within the student movement.”
“It is a truly difficult read for all of us but we welcome the clarity it brings to enable us to act with confidence to tackle antisemitism head on,” the union said. “Antisemitism is an attack on our shared values of equality and solidarity. We have a proud history of fighting struggles alongside Jewish students. We must tackle antisemitism in all its forms with collective responsibility.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said the findings showed “a litany of failures” by the union, which it said treated Jewish members “with apathy at best and hostility at worst.”
The Board of Deputies called on the union to work in tandem with the Union of Jewish Students “to ensure that this time they commit to implementing the report’s recommendations.”
The Union of Jewish Students called the report a “searing indictment” and accused the National Union of Students of “failing generations of Jewish students.”
“It confirms that Jewish students faced harassment and discrimination and that complaints of antisemitism were dismissed and disregarded,” Union of Jewish Students President Joel Rosen said. “It is vital that this report is translated into meaningful and immediate action.”
In 2022, the UK government suspended ties with the National Union of Students over allegations of antisemitism.
British Jews and authorities recorded 2,255 antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2021 — the highest total in recent years anywhere in Europe.