Our friend at the NUS

The Jewish Chronicle - - News -

FEW NON-JEWISH pres­i­dents of the Na­tional Union of Stu­dents can have found them­selves the vic­tim of an an­ti­semitic at­tack.

But Wes Street­ing’s ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing ver­bally abused while read­ing Alan Der­showitz’s The Case for Is­rael on the Lon­don Un­der­ground pro­vided him with an in­sight into the im­pact of an­tisemitism and anti-Is­rael action.

Since be­ing elected in April 2008, Mr Street­ing has worked hard to sup­port the Union of Jewish Stu­dents, pro­mot­ing a zero tol­er­ance stance to an­tisemitism and aca­demic boy­cotts.

He said the ef­forts have been suc­cess­ful, with the once “strained” re­la­tion­ship now “a mil­lion miles away”.

“The re­la­tion­ship is in­cred­i­bly strong, and UJS is very much part and par­cel of the NUS fam­ily,” he said.

Re­flect­ing on the fu­ri­ous demon­stra­tions and lec­ture the­atre oc­cu­pa­tions which hit Bri­tish cam­puses in Jan­uary fol­low­ing Is­rael’s mil­i­tary action in Gaza, the 26-year-old from Step­ney, east Lon­don, pulled no punches.

“I was quite dis­gusted by the tac­tics on some cam­puses. There were a num­ber of oc­cu­pa­tions which were so-called ‘stu­dent oc­cu­pa­tions’, but there was very lit­tle ev­i­dence what­so­ever that they were be­ing gen­er­ated by stu­dents.

“It seemed to me there were a num­ber of or­gan­is­ers from out­side cam­pus com­ing in to stir things up. The So­cial­ist Work­ers Party is no­to­ri­ous for try­ing to use di­vi­sive lan­guage and tac­tics around the Is­rael-Pales­tinian con­flict as a re­cruit­ing tool. There was a lot of that go­ing on.

“It’s not fair for Jewish stu­dents to go about their daily lives feel­ing like they are ex­pected to jus­tify or de­fend the ac­tions of the state of Is­rael. It’s ridicu­lous.”

One con­cern for Mr Street­ing is that fear of an­tisemitism over­shad­ows the fact that Jewish stu­dents also face the same everyday chal­lenges as their nonJewish friends on cam­pus.

Last month, the JC re­vealed that applications for UJS Hil­lel’s hard­ship fund have risen by 30 per cent in the past year.

Mr Street­ing said: “At the mo­ment stu­dent life is quite tough. Peo­ple still have The Young Ones per­cep­tion of stu­dent life — lots of late nights, sit­ting around watch­ing day­time telly and then go­ing out in the evening. But stu­dents are work­ing harder than ever be­fore both aca­dem­i­cally and to fund their stud­ies.

“The‘Bankof Mum and Dad’ which fi­nances a lot of stu­dents up and down the coun­try is just as hard hit at the mo­ment as some of its high-street coun­ter­parts.”

Many of his pre­de­ces­sors have gone on to reach lofty heights, in­clud­ing achiev­ing Cab­i­net roles in gov­ern­ment. Wher­ever his ca­reer leads him, it seems the Jewish com­mu­nity will have an ally in Mr Street­ing.

“One of my good Jewish friends told me she could no longer wear her Star of David neck­lace. Why should peo­ple be made to feel they can­not dis­play who they are and have to hide away their her­itage? It’s just mad.

“I’m not fright­ened to pin my colours to the mast. I have gone out of my way to bring Jewish stu­dents back into the NUS fam­ily and I’ve taken sim­i­lar steps with the Fed­er­a­tion of Stu­dent Is­lamic So­ci­eties.

“There’s so much com­mon ground for Jewish and Mus­lim stu­dents to work on to­gether. I want to see more of that hap­pen­ing.”

Wes Street­ing

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