“The Mail on Sunday has once again proved that old habits die hard. As if it were not enough to witch hunt asylum seekers, or tarnish the reputation of many Muslim leaders, the Mail has again surpassed itself by bizarrely claiming that FOSIS and the Mayor’s office ‘plotted to nail Euan’s girlfriend’.”
For a response by FOSIS to allegations of anti-semitism in the NUS see FOSIS press release, 13 April 2005
The immediate reason given by Luciana Berger for her decision to resign along with two other Union of Jewish Students members from their positions in the National Union of Students on the third day of NUS conference was that it was a necessary protest against anti-semitism at the conference, and the refusal of the NUS executive to take a stand against this.
Indeed, Berger went so far as to claim that the level of intimidation she suffered as a Jewish student inside the conference building was worse than anything she had experienced as a result of the BNP presence outside the conference. (See Berger’s resignation speech here.)
What was it that had occurred over the previous three days of the conference that was worse than the threat from the far right? In her speech Berger outlined two causes for complaint.
The first was that kosher food had not been made available at the conference: “Having placed their beliefs and trust in the national union, Jewish students expected, as promised, their religious requirements of kosher food to be met. Not only have they been betrayed by the non-existent provision, they have been betrayed by the reticence to do anything about it.”
However, according to my informants, halal food was not available either, despite there being a large FOSIS contingent at conference. Would anyone seriously claim that Muslim students were therefore subject to fascist-type persecution by the NUS leadership?
The second and more substantial of Berger’s complaints about the conduct of the conference was that an anti-semitic leaflet had been displayed at the General Union of Palestinian Students’ stall:
“If anyone were to stand up here and allege the Jews are an evil manipulative people who want to control the world, there would no doubt follow rounds of furious speeches supported by endless clapping. Conference, I hold in my hand a leaflet which was readily available on one of the stalls in this building for two days, which alleged just that.”
In an article in the Guardian (see here) explaining why she had no alternative but to resign in face of the NUS leadership’s refusal to oppose anti-semitism, Berger wrote:
“A leaflet was readily available on the GUPS stalls at the conference for two days. The text was the typical anti-semitic work; the Protocols of the Elders of Zion … complaints were met with unacceptable delays and silence. Many people claim that being anti-Israel/Zionist isn’t being anti-semitic. But why does hatred of Israel lead them to turn a blind eye to the Protocols on a GUPS pamphlet?”
If the NUS leadership had in fact turned a blind eye to an anti-semitic leaflet on the GUPS stall, this would certainly have been cause for outrage. And some commentators had no hesitation in expressing such outrage. Melanie Phillips, for example, wrote a piece for the Jewish Chronicle in which she claimed:
“A stall at the NUS conference displayed anti-Jewish leaflets which compared Jews to Nazis, claimed that Jews had abused Judaism to obtain the State of Israel, and regurgitated extracts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Yet according to the UJS, not only did the NUS executive do nothing about these leaflets and remarks but instead it did remove a UJS leaflet exposing the extremist Islamist movement Hizb-ut-Tahrir. So while it turned a blind eye to brazen anti-Jewish prejudice, it suppressed a protest by Jews against the Islamist fanaticism that threatens themselves and others. This is racism, pure and simple.” (See here.)
The leaflet on the GUPS stall was undoubtedly anti-semitic – it did indeed contain a reference to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (See here.)
However, GUPS issued a press release (see here) which sheds a rather different light on the incident:
“GUPS disassociates itself from the leaflet which does not represent GUPS’ views in any way. Once GUPS became aware of the existence of the leaflet, it was removed from the stall. The article did not display the official GUPS logo, and it had not been authorised by GUPS to be displayed on the stall at the conference. The NUS was extremely supportive and efficient in helping to resolve the matter fairly, justly, and rapidly. GUPS met with the UJS at the invitation of the NUS and an amicable resolution was reached and the leaflet removed. GUPS condemns any act of racism or discrimination.”