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Confusion after UK Jewish student group criticised new NUS head with wrong signatories

Union of Jewish Students' statement expressing concern over incoming NUS president included names of people who did not sign the letter
Protester with a Palestinian flag at a police cordon during a protest in central London on 23 May 2021 (AFP/File photo)
Protester with a Palestinian flag at a police cordon during a protest in central London on 23 May 2021 (AFP/File photo)

A group representing the UK’s Jewish students has been criticised for including signatures in an open letter condemning the incoming president of the National Union of Students (NUS), despite a number of alleged signatories saying they never agreed to being included.

On Tuesday, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) published an open letter expressing concerns about Shaima Dallali, who was elected to oversee the UK’s largest student umbrella organisation. 

“Over the past few weeks, we have become aware of multiple comments made by Dallali, both online and on university campuses, which are incredibly offensive to Jewish people, the LGBTQ+ community and other minority communities,” reads the statement, addressed to NUS’s trustees. 

“It is deplorable that some Jewish students should feel excluded or unwelcome within NUS spaces.

“An NUS that doesn't make room for Jews is an NUS that is unfit to represent any students.”

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Over 1,300 names have signed the letter, which UJS said includes the names of “Jewish students and allies”.

But several people took to social media to claim that their names were falsely added. 

This included journalist Rivkah Brown, co-founder of Jewish NGO Na’amod, Emily Hilton, academic Barnaby Raine and writer Ben Reiff. 

“Someone has added my name to this letter which I categorically do not want to sign (for a variety of reasons),” Hilton tweeted. “This undermines the credibility of the whole initiative by doing this.”

“This letter supports an IHRA text which denies Palestinians the right to talk freely about their dispossession, so you've associated me with racism without my consent,” Raine wrote, referencing the controversial IHRA definition of antisemitism. 

MEE has reached out to UJS for comment. Its president Nina Freedman indicated on Twitter that names falsely added to the list had now been removed, without providing further explanation.

Brown told MEE that she had not received any further clarification as to why her name was included.  

One of the complaints about Dallali includes a post she made as a young teenager, which reads: “Khaybar Khaybar O Jews… Muhammad’s army will return Gaza".

It referenced a battle that took place in the early 7th century between Muslim troops and the Jewish inhabitants of Khaybar, an oasis in the Arabian peninsula. 

Dallali has since apologised for the comments made over a decade ago.

UJS’s letter also referenced the NUS inviting pro-Palestine activist and rapper Lowkey to an event last month - which he later pulled out of. The incident sparked a campaign by pro-Israel groups to have Lowkey’s music removed from Spotify. 

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