Shelly Asquith on the People's Assembly demonstration on 16 April in London. Photo: Facebook Shelly Asquith on the People's Assembly demonstration on 16 April in London. Photo: Facebook

Defending Malia Bouattia’s record as an anti-racist campaigner, Shelly Asquith argues that the NUS has the right to criticise Israeli politics

Myself and our President-elect, Malia Bouattia, have spent the day in Exeter where students are currently balloting on affiliation to NUS.

In recent weeks, we have witnessed an unprecedented, right-wing media attack against Malia, and our union more broadly. She, a Muslim woman who fled a civil war as a child and a long standing anti-racist campaigner, has been aggressively labelled a racist, Isis-sympathiser and threat to national security. This could not be further from the truth.

We have witnessed attempts to undermine our union’s proud position of international solidarity.

Our criticism of the Israeli state and its continual, systematic subjugation and murder of the Palestinian people has been called into question.

We have seen local councils now threatened with legal action for adopting similar policies.

As Vice President Welfare of NUS, it is part of my role to support students to organise against racism and repression on campus. We work with student faith groups to co-ordinate nationally against antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism in all its forms. Whether that is standing up to the fascist National Action or the state-sponsored Prevent agenda, we do so unapologetically.

We also defend our right to criticise the politics and conduct of the Israeli government. Its continued violation of international law and denial of human rights.

As a union of students we cannot stand by as the Islamic University of Gaza is bombed to ashes.

We cannot stand by as our international students from across the world call on us to show solidarity.

And we cannot stand by as Palestinian civil society continues to call on us to maintain our policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Opposing antisemitism and opposing international injustices have never – and will never – be mutually exclusive.

We stand with all those seeking a more progressive society, free of all forms of racism. And for a more progressive world, with freedom for the Palestinian people.


Shelly Asquith

Shelly Asquith is the president of the students' union at the University of the Arts London.

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