NUS leaders rebuked over slur against Jews

30th September 2005 at 01:00
An independent inquiry has criticised the leadership of the National Union of Students for failing to act swiftly against anti-Semitism.

The NUS is not apathetic to racist criticism of Jews, but failed to deal with it effectively, says a report by human resources consultant Marco Henry.

The report was prompted by the resignations of two members of the national executive committee. Luciana Berger and Mitch Simmons both quit in protest after a series of anti-Jewish leaflets were circulated at the NUS conference in April.

One, which the report says was "particularly offensive", cribbed from the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which slurs Jews by claiming they are conspiring to achieve world domination.

Although the conference steering committee agreed to ban them, Mr Henry said the union became bogged down in bureaucratic disputes and the leaflets continued to be distributed.

The union should clarify who is responsible for removing offensive material, the report said.

"The NUS was seen as a bystander to anti-Semitism, hiding behind procedure and bureaucracy," Mr Henry said.

"There were clearly occasions when matters could have been dealt with more quickly, or more efficiently, but they do not demonstrate apathy to anti-Semitism."

The report also criticised the union for suppressing a leaflet by the Union of Jewish students, criticising banned Muslim groups. Mr Henry said they were only repeating NUS policy and should not have been treated in the same manner as the anti-Semitic literature.

He said the union also failed to respond properly to a complaint about alleged anti-Jewish remarks by a member of the national executive committee, Benson Osawe. Mr Osawe denies any anti-Semitism.

Despite nine months passing, the outcome of a disciplinary hearing was never reported to either Mr Osawe or to the Jewish students who complained.

Jewish students said that the failure to provide kosher food at the conference earlier this year, as had been promised, added insult to injury.

The report said there was no question of anti-Semitism in the failure, but recommended that procedures be tightened next year to ensure all students'

dietary requirements are met.

The Union of Jewish Students and NUS leadership both welcomed the report, saying it provided the basis for closer co-operation in the future.

Kat Fletcher, NUS president, said she hoped students of all faiths and races would be reassured that the union would protect their interests.

She said: "We at NUS look forward to continuing our long and valued partnership with UJS and other organisations in campaigning against racism and fascism in the education sector and in society as a whole."

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