UK students say union leader involved in Israel lobby plot must go

There are growing calls in the UK’s National Union of Students for one of its vice presidents to resign after he was caught on camera plotting to overthrow the union’s own elected president.

“I could never have” Malia Bouattia as leader, Richard Brooks tells an undercover reporter in the Al Jazeera film, The Lobby.

Union structures “don’t usually allow a vice president to go and publicly criticize your president on national radio,” Brooks admits, “but you got to do what you got to do.”

But Brooks did later criticize Bouattia in an interview on BBC radio, the film shows.

Brooks tells “Robin,” the undercover reporter, that he had held “little secret purpose meetings” with two other pro-Israel student activists about “how to get moderate people with good politics” elected.

Brooks also tells Robin that he had been “helping organize” people in the NUS to oppose Bouattia. Robin had been posing as a Labour Party activist close to now disgraced Israeli embassy agent Shai Masot.

The film has already led to the resignation of Masot from his position as senior political officer at the Israeli embassy in London, and has prompted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn to demand a government investigation of Israeli interference in UK politics.

‪Shelly Asquith, another NUS vice president, and a supporter of Bouattia, has accused Brooks of colluding with the Israeli embassy to “effectively destabilize the union.” She calls Brooks’ act “straightforwardly anti-democratic and dangerous.”

Bouattia, the first Black, Muslim president of NUS, is a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

Palestinian students in the UK are now calling on Brooks to resign as vice president “with immediate effect.”

“This constitutes a massive betrayal of the trust placed within Richard Brooks by the students who elected him, in addition to demonstrating his misplaced and misguided priorities, none of which should include colluding with the Israeli embassy,” the students say.

The signatories say that Bouattia has been targeted “based on her politics and principled opposition to Israel’s regime of apartheid and settler-colonialism.”

Policy breached

“Policy and protocol have been breached, then boasted about,” NUS vice president Asquith adds in her condemnation of Brooks’ actions. She notes that the effort to oust Bouattia came amid “racist, sexist coverage” of the NUS president in the media last year.

Members of the NUS national executive had called for an emergency meeting, according to Asquith.

One of the people Brooks mentions as being in his “secret purpose meetings” was an officer of the Union of Jewish Students, an organization that has received funding from the Israeli embassy.

UJS sends many delegations on propaganda trips to Israel, one of which Brooks joined. The trip enabled him to feel “confident enough to start talking about some of the stuff more seriously,” Brooks says in the film.

Brooks’ secret meetings were also attended by Michael Rubin, the parliamentary officer of the Labour Friends of Israel.

Investigation

Rubin admits in the film that LFI and the Israeli embassy “work really closely together. But a lot of it is behind the scenes.”

The National Union of Students has long been a high-profile target for the Israeli government. After the union voted to back the BDS movement in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu smeared it as a supporter of ISIS.

Brooks responded in a statement that he had referred himself to the NUS for investigation and that he expected to be “fully exonerated.”

Part one of The Lobby can be viewed in the video above. All four parts of the film are now available online.

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Has anybody called the police?? Is Scottland Yard advised about this?
Activists must make sure that they file a formal criminal complaint ASAP, and if the police refuse to take action, people must organise a demonstration at the police head quarters, demanding that police do their job. No point in asking the criminal student leader to resign, this is just a waste of time that actually legitimizes the criminal.

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Shahd Abusalama

Shahd Abusalama's picture

Shahd Abusalama is a Palestinian artist from Gaza and the author of Palestine from My Eyes: Una blogger a Gaza, an Italian translation of her blog which reflects on different day-to-day political issues and injustices endured by Palestinians under the grip of the Israeli colonial occupation. She recently completed her MA studies in Media and the Middle East at Univerisity of London, SOAS. She can always be followed at @shahdabusalama.