Friday, 27 May 2016

An open letter to Malia

Dear Ms Bouattia,

I write to you as a Jew, a Zionist, a critic of Israeli policy, a student, a human being.

You will no doubt have seen the result of Cambridge's disaffiliation referendum and, indeed, of Warwick's, where I was previously a student. You will also no doubt be glad that neither institution voted to disaffiliate. As a student that voted for disaffiliation and (still) strongly believes it to be the only option to combat the anti-Semitism that has festered in your organisation for decades, I have one simple request. Well two, but I figure asking you not to be an anti-Semite and to apologise for your anti-Semitism might be asking too much.

Instead, my simple request is as follows: Do not view this result as validation of your election or an indication that Cambridge does not believe the NUS has a problem with anti-Semitism. I refuse to believe that the 3000 or so students that voted against disaffiliation did so because they do not think the NUS has a problem with anti-Semitism. I refuse to believe that they listened to the concerns of the Jewish students who supported disaffiliation and dismissed them. Ultimately, I refuse to believe that they do not care about anti-Semitism. Some students won't fit that description. I am not naive. Some students completely buy into the idea that describing Birmingham University as a Zionist outpost because it has a large Jewish Society is not anti-Semitic. Some students celebrate anti-Semitism and support Malia precisely because of her views. But I refuse to believe that over 3000 students at Cambridge all believe that. Somewhat because if that is true, then the problem is even bigger than even I could have imagined, but mainly because I have faith in my fellow students and I have hope that that faith is rewarded. Maybe I am wrong.

So please Malia and the NUS at large, do not take this result and the results of any future referendums that go the same way as vindication. Rather, look at it as a last chance to reform and to change. I strongly believe that the vast majority of the 3183 Cambridge students that voted against disaffiliation agree with me when I say there is a problem with anti-Semitism in the NUS and that we cannot just ignore it or hope it goes away, but we have to do something about it - and fast. We just disagree on how exactly we should go about tackling this problem.

I sincerely believe this and I hope that the promises that we can reform the NUS from within are proved to be correct. My doubts about this should not get in the way of all the students who claimed that the NUS has an anti-Semitism problem but argued that we need to remain in the NUS to eradicate it from beginning their work.

Yours sincerely,

Raphael