The Union of Jewish Students has apologized after fake signatures appeared on a petition it launched this week.
The pro-Israel group is currently campaigning against the UK’s National Union of Students, or NUS.
In an open letter it launched on Tuesday, the Israel lobbyists implied that the NUS’ incoming president Shaima Dallali should be removed and demanded the student union adopt a bogus, pro-Israel definition of anti-Semitism.
But on Wednesday, several Jewish writers and activists whose names initially appeared on the petition publicly distanced themselves, saying they had never signed it in the first place.
“Someone has added my name to this letter which I categorically do not want to sign,” writer Em Hilton posted on Twitter.
The Union of Jewish Students’ president Nina Freedman apologized to Hilton soon after, saying her name had been deleted.The Union of Jewish Students did not reply to a request for comment.
Several other names also appear to have been faked.
Lecturer Barnaby Raine called on the Union of Jewish Students to investigate how his signature and others had been falsified. “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,” he wrote on Twitter.As of this writing, Raine’s signature had been deleted from the open letter, although Freedman appears not to have apologized to him.
The letter demands that the NUS and “all its current and future” leaders “publicly commit” to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The definition notoriously conflates a wide range of legitimate criticisms of Israel with anti-Jewish hatred.
The open letter also condemns the NUS for what it claims is its “appalling handling of the recent incident with Lowkey.”
The rapper and Palestine solidarity campaigner was recently booked to perform at NUS’ national conference. But after pressure by the Israel lobby, the NUS canceled his show.
The Israel lobby has been campaigning hard against Lowkey in recent months.
A privately circulated version of the open letter to the NUS was “leaked” to The Guardian on Monday. The paper said that it had been signed by “21 former [NUS] presidents dating back to the 1960s,” including former government ministers and at least one current lawmaker.
But the Union of Jewish Students came under fire for Islamophobia, after the paper reported it had also been signed by Trevor Phillips, a writer who has accused British Muslims of being “a nation within a nation.”
The letter was also signed by former Labour minister Phil Woolas, who was kicked out of Parliament in 2010 after high court judges ruled he had lied about his electoral opponent. Woolas falsely claimed Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins had “wooed” Islamic extremists. Confidential emails revealed in court showed that Woolas’ team aimed to “get the white folk angry.”
The private version of the letter was also signed by former Israel lobbyist Lorna Fitzsimons. In 2011 she helped lead a workshop at a pro-Israel conference with an anti-Semitic title: “Every Jew is an ambassador for Israel.”
The Union of Jewish Students claims to be the sole voice of Jewish student life on British campuses. But its constitution commits the group to pushing Jewish students to make “an enduring commitment to … Israel.”
In 2017, an undercover Al Jazeera series revealed that the Union of Jewish Students is directly funded by the Israeli embassy in London.
Responding at the time, the Israel lobby group said it was not “funded nor in any way directed” by the Israeli government but admitted to having “a productive working relationship with the Israeli embassy.”Addressing Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely and Israeli president Isaac Herzog in November last year, current Union of Jewish Students president Nina Freedman boasted that her group’s alumni “are currently serving in senior positions in the Israeli government, the foreign ministry, the IDF [military] and even the president’s office.”
She also stated that her organization was “on the front line” of the fight against BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid.
Freedman’s speech to Israeli officials inadvertently reveals the Union of Jewish Students’ real agenda – fighting the Palestine solidarity movement.