Survey reveals Jewish students’ distrust of NUS
A SURVEY conducted by the National Union of Students to “improve knowledge and understanding” of the experience of Jewish students has revealed their growing alienation from the institution that is meant to represent them.
The study found that 65 per cent of Jewish students believed the NUS did not respond appropriately to allegations of antisemitism. Sixty-eight per cent said they did not feel comfortable with their student unions adopting BDS as a policy.
In a further sign of increasing detachment from the NUS, almost half of those questioned, 49 per cent, said they would not feel comfortable attending union events.
Asked if they would feel comfortable engaging in the NUS policy-making process, 42 per cent of Jewish students said they would not.
Some 485 students responded to the survey, which is entitled “The Experience of Jewish Students 2016-17” and was carried out by an NUS research team in co-operation with the UJS between last November and February.
Asked if they felt confident in expressing views on Israel in class, 45 per cent said they did, while 50 per cent said they felt comfortable engaging in campus debate on the Israel/ Palestine issue.
The report concluded: “The attitudes of lecturers and students towards issues relating to Jewish people as well as Israel/Palestine present a challenge to be addressed.
“Furthermore, better understanding of Jewish students’ identity with Israel, including what Zionism means to many Jewish people, could foster a culture of healthy debate and respectful campaigning around what are often divisive issues.”
In response to the findings, Josh Nagli, UJS campaigns director who was a member of the project’s steering group, said: “In the last 12 months, Jewish students have regularly raised concerns, particularly about antisemitism on their campuses and the toxicity around the Israel/Palestine debate.
“It is therefore unsurprising that the report shows that such a large number feel uncomfortable engaging with NUS and student politics.” Mr Nagli said the NUS had to work “to rebuild trust with Jewish students and, along with students’ unions and higher education institutions, aim to fully understand
NUS president Malia Bouattia Jewish students’ needs; we hope this report will act as a catalyst for this to happen.”
Explaining why the survey was commissioned, Robbie Young, NUS vicepresident for society and citizenship, said: “The research aims to improve our knowledge and experience of the Jewish student experience, to help our understanding.”
But, after viewing the results, he acknowledged that despite “historically good relations with and representation from Jewish students, this research indicates a significant lack of trust at present.”
The survey also found that for 42 per cent of students, there was no kosher food on or near campus.
Fifty-nine per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed that their university avoided scheduling classes and exams on Shabbat and during Jewish festivals.
The report said: “NUS have long advocated for better provision for students of faith and belief on campus including food provision, adequate prayer space and suitable time-tabling.”
The survey comes amid strained relations between Jewish student groups and the NUS following last year’s election of Malia Bouattia as NUS president.
She was heavily criticised for making references to the “Zionistled media” and Birmingham University, which has a large Jewish student population as a “Zionist outpost.”
She later blamed “clumsy language” and pledged that she would not make such remarks again.
In a tweet, she described the survey as “important research”.
Percentage of Jewish students who believe the NUS does not respond appropriately to antisemitism claims
Jewish students uncomfortable over attending NUS events
Discomforting: a mock Israeli checkpoint set up at Cambridge University during last year’s Israel Apartheid Week