Demonstrators against 2014’s Operation Protective Edge march up Whitehall in London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A group of Jewish supporters of the newly elected – and controversial – president of the National Union of Students pushed back on Thursday against allegations of anti-Semitism.
Last week, Malia Bouattia's ascent to the presidency of the NUS was met with consternation from critics who cite past remarks she made about Zionists, including a reference to Birmingham University as "a Zionist outpost."
Bouattia, who is Muslim, became the first black woman to be elected president of the union.
In 2014, Bouattia wrote an essay in support or the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel, but said BDS should not be “misunderstood as the alternative to resistance by the Palestinian people.” Critics accused her of justifying Palestinian terrorism against Israelis.
Later that year, Bouattia spoke out against a resolution condemning the Islamic State group that she said would justify “war and blatant Islamophobia.” She also spoke of various institutions, including British media and her own University of Birmingham, as being under Zionist control.
According to the London-based Jewish Chronicle
, a number of Bouattia's Jewish supporters slammed her critics for conducting a "witch hunt" motivated by "Islamophobia."
“We are…horrified at the Islamophobic campaign being waged against her, amidst opportunistic and false charges of anti-Semitism,” the Jewish students wrote to the Chronicle
“The witch-hunt against Malia is part of a wider narrative that includes, for example, the racist attacks on London mayoral candidate, Sadiq Khan," the letter read. "It is a narrative that as Jews we should oppose without qualification."
“Her critics should hang their heads in shame.”
Khan, who is a Muslim of Pakistani descent, is running as the Labor Party's candidate for the mayoralty of London against Zac Goldsmith of the Conservative Party.
Viewed by most as a moderate, Khan has been outspoken in condemning what he sees as his party's failure to adequately address rampant anti-Semitism.
Labor has come under increasing attack for its perceived tolerance of members who make anti-Semitic remarks.
The party suspended veteran member and former London mayor Ken Livingstone on Thursday after he was accused of anti-Semitism over remarks he made that Hitler had supported Zionism "before he went mad."
In their letter to the Chronicle
, the Jewish students credited Bouattia for her “outstanding and principled record as an anti-racist activist and NUS Black Students Officer."
“Just a month ago she spoke at the 20,000 strong Stand Up to Racism demonstration under the banner ‘Refugees Welcome Here: No to Racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and Fascism’," they wrote.
“Malia’s critics conflate opposition to Israel with anti-Jewish prejudice per se. This is a recipe for division in the face of the real threat.”
Bouattia has denied allegations that she is an anti-Semite.