REVEALED: NUS official colluded with figures linked to Israeli embassy to oust student leader
A senior official from the UK’s National Union of Students has been covertly filmed conspiring to oust the organisation’s president Malia Bouattia.
An undercover Al-Jazeera reporter – known only as Robin – posed as a political activist with links to the now disgraced Israeli diplomat Shai Masot to investigate the influence the Israeli embassy exerts on British politics.
In the secret recording, Brooks is filmed telling Robin that he accepted a trip to Israel funded by the Union of Jewish Students.
He is also heard to say that he was a key figure involved in attempts to remove Bouattia.
“So how can we get in touch with the people who are trying to oppose her?” asked Robin.
Brooks admitted to organising the faction against Bouattia, telling Robin to “drop me a line whenever you want to have a conversation” if he wished to speak to any figures opposed to Bouattia.
He is also heard to offer to put Robin in touch with anyone opposed to Bouattia from across the UK: “[If] you want to speak with someone in a certain geographical area, I’ll point you at the right people.”
Bouattia, the first black Muslim woman to lead the NUS, has been criticised by opponents for alleged anti-Semitism, claims that she denies.
Known for her years of pro-Palestine activism on campuses across the UK, Bouattia says she considers herself an opponent of "Zionist politics".
MEE has approached Bouattia for comment.
Call for expulsion of diplomats
The revelation comes days after British MPs called for Israeli diplomats implicated in the scandal to be expelled after an embassy official was filmed saying he would “take down” British MPs who expressed anti-settlement opinions.
The Israeli embassy’s senior political officer, Shai Masot, was filmed by Al-Jazeera admitting to helping set up political groups across the UK like the Young Conservative Friends of Israel and various other organisations.
Other individuals linked to the Israeli embassy involved in conspiring to remove Bouattia include Michael Rubin, parliamentary officer of the Labour Friends of Israel group, and former chair of Labour Students, a student political organisation linked to the Labour Party. In one exchange filmed outside a London pub, Rubin said he and Masot "work really closely together.. but a lot of it is behind the scenes."
Prior to becoming the LFI’s parliamentary officer, Rubin was chair of Labour Students and helped run the NUS presidential campaign for Megan Dunn, who ran against Bouattia during her successful campaign.
The sting operation revealed that, in the run-up to the NUS presidential elections in 2016, Brooks held secret meetings with Rubin and Russell Langer, who was campaigns director for the Union of Jewish Students which is alleged to have accepted funding from the Israeli government.
Al Jazeera has approached every individual named in the documentary for further comment.
MEE also approached Richard Brooks, the NUS and the UJS for comment. Brooks strongly denies any form of collusion with the Israeli government or embassy.
Rubin is filmed directing Robin to meet Brooks and Robbie Young, who is an NUS vice president and a prominent activist in the Labour Party’s student wing.
Filmed outside a pub in Westminster, Rubin tells Robin that Young was given a trip to Israel and that he was “really good on Israel.”
“He’s a Labour student and he is, like, really good on Israel,” said Rubin, referring to Young. “He’s been out on a trip so he’s seen Israel.”
Both Brooks and Young, however, failed to declare their trip to Israel to the NUS’s national executive council, which is tasked with holding NUS officers to account.
MEE has also approached Young for comment.
NUS endorsement of Israeli boycott
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement has gained traction on campuses across the UK over the last few years.
The Ministry of Strategic Affairs in Israel has been at the forefront of attempts to counter the worldwide growth of the BDS movement.
In September, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan described the UK as the "centre" of the BDS movement.
In 2014 the NUS's national executive voted to endorse the BDS campaign, amid widespread public concern over the deteriorating situation in Gaza after Israel's devastating military operation in the coastal enclave in the summer of that year.
The NUS, which represents over four million students, has been known to be a training ground for future Labour party politicians.
Notable politicians who have previously served as NUS leader include former foreign secretary Jack Straw and Wes Streeting, now a young Labour MP.