NUS disqualification: Worrying misapplication of IHRA definition of Anti-Semitism

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We are republishing this Facebook post, because it shows how the ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism published by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is being misused to silences supporters of the Palestinians… Once an accusation has been made, it is easy to trash the reputation of somebody – even if, as in this case, the accusations have been proven to be false.

Zeid Haj Hassan Truscott

*** Statement responding to my election disqualification ***

On Friday 5th April at 4:53pm I received an email from the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) of NUS that stating that I had publicly made antisemitic comments (whilst a candidate in an NUS election) at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign event on Saturday 30 March 2019. I was informed that the complaint had been referred to the CRO for investigation and that the complaint against me had been upheld. This investigation took place without me even knowing that a complaint had been made against me, and without me being aware of the details of the complaint or being asked whether I had in fact made any such comments.

I was asked by the CRO to apologise publicly for the comments or to clarify my position if I did not make the comments. I was told that I must do so by 4pm on Monday and failure to do so would result in my disqualification from the election. I immediately replied asking for more information about the complaint and the specific details of the comments I was alleged to have made because I knew that I had not made any such comments. I was told again that the complaint related to comments made at the PSC event. I then wrote again asking for a copy of the complaint, the evidence on which it was based, a copy of the complaint determination and a copy of the rules governing the consideration of complaints and the right to review or appeal any decision. I asked why I had not been allowed a right of reply before the complaint was upheld against me.

I subsequently sent both a copy of a video of me speaking at the PSC event and a transcript of my speech to the CRO. I stated clearly that I oppose antisemitism and I strongly refute and deny any charge of antisemitism made against me. I also provided my statement from last week condemning and rejecting anti-Semitism. On receipt of this information the CRO accepted that I had not made any antisemitic comments at the event but I was informed that because of the high level of interest in the issue and my candidacy I was still required to publicly confirm that I was willing and able to uphold the values and policies of the NUS and most particularly the IHRA definition of antisemitism in public life. I made a clear and unequivocal statement to this effect. I also explained that I had concerns about the potential impact of the IHRA on the free speech of Arab and BME communities. I shared a link to a letter from The Independent newspaper which reflected the concern of primarily African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean organisations about the impact of the IHRA on their right to voice legitimate concerns about Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians.

The CRO’s decision to disqualify me from the election despite accepting that the complaint made against me was without substance and that I had not made any antisemitic comments at the PSC event is fundamentally flawed and unfair. I have publicly confirmed that I accept and will abide by the policies of the NUS including its democratic decision to adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. I understand I was disqualified for sharing the concern of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean communities about the potential impact upon those wishing to express solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinians. Expressing legitimate concerns about the potential impact of the IHRA is not prohibited by the IHRA. I am entitled, as an individual member of NUS, to voice constructive, legitimate concerns about its’ policies as is all of its student membership.

I believe that I was unfairly disqualified following a process which was flawed from the beginning; where a complaint was upheld against me without me even knowing that a complaint had been made let alone the content of the complaint. My disqualification has chilling implications for all those wishing to express legitimate concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians at a time when the need to do so could not be greater.