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 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.
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.
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.