The U.K.'s National Union of Students (NUS) president elect Malia Bouattia was found guilty of misconduct after a 2015 internal investigation into allegedly anti-Semitic comments she made during a speech, reported The Tab student newspaper on Friday.
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The NUS investigation was uncovered in a letter dated March 3, 2015 acquired by The Tab. The letter was in response to allegations of anti-Semitism from Bouattia and said an internal investigation had found that "it is not unreasonable for you to believe that the content of Malia's speech was anti-Semitic and therefore in breach of the code of conduct."
Bouattia was to be informally warned as a result of the investigation, according to the letter, which ultimately stated that the NUS was "satisfied, based on the evidence and information available ... that it was not Malia's intention to be anti-Semitic."
Besides the informal reprimand, Bouattia would also be required to familiarize herself with the union's code of conduct as well as to make a written apology to the complainant.
It was unclear if the letter and investigation were purposefully kept secret until now.
While it is unknown if or how Bouattia's "informal warning" was carried out, the first black, female and Muslim-born NUS president elect cause a stir before voting began in April, when she called Birmingham University "something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education," thanks to its large Jewish population and also criticized the "Zionist-led" media.
"It is clear that despite having previously been warned over such rhetoric, the NUS President-elect has continued to use similar language," campaigns director the Union of Jewish Students Russell Langer told The Jewish Chronicle. "Regardless of NUS’ investigation, it is most worrying that although these incidents were well known in the lead up to NUS Conference, delegates still decided to elect her."
Bouattia's comments have fractured the 600-strong confederation of student unions, from which four have already decided to disaffiliate themselves in protest.
Although Bouattia said she would keep a low profile until her term officially begins in July, she published an op-ed in The Guardian’s Observer shortly after her election in which she made clear that "there is no place for anti-Semitism in the student movement, or in society. The first thing I did on being elected was to hold a meeting with the Union of Jewish Students, and these meetings are set to continue.”
Langer said the meeting had taken place at Bouattia’s request some hours after her election, but that nothing was resolved at the 20-minute session.
Langer said that she had promised that their meeting was a first step to rebuild bridges rather than a PR stunt. Regrettably, he said, the fact she had been so keen to publicize the brief talk made it look exactly like the latter.
"I haven’t called her an anti-Semite but her rhetoric has flirted with anti-Semitic discourse. She needs to address how she talks about Israel," he said. "When Jewish students raise legitimate concerns, people assume that it’s a smear campaign."