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Palestine-supporting students claim new NUS chief Shaimia Dallali is ‘victim of smear campaign’

Palestinian-supporting students at 23 universities have claimed the new president of the National Union of Students (NUS) is the ‘victim of a smear campaign’ after she was accused of anti-Semitism.

Shaima Dallali was voted president-elect of the NUS in March, but Jewish students raised concerns after historic tweets emerged referencing the massacre of Jews in the 628 Battle of Khaybar, modern-day Saudi Arabia. 

She apologised for the ‘wrong’ and ‘unacceptable’ post she wrote as a teenager in 2012 and deleted the tweet.

But the NUS opened an investigation into Ms Dallali after former presidents called for an inquiry.

Now students in Palestinian societies at 23 universities have written a joint statement calling for the inquiry to be dropped, labelling it a ‘smear campaign and harassment’, reported the Tab. 

The inquiry came after the NUS was criticised by Jewish student groups earlier this year after inviting controversial rapper Lowkey to appear at its conference for students from marginalised groups in Liverpool in March.

The rapper, whose real name is Kareem Dennis, has previously expressed support for former Labour MP Chris Williamson, who was suspended from the party in 2019 before being kicked out over allegations of anti-Semitism, and Professor David Miller, a former sociology lecturer at Bristol University who was sacked after alleged antisemitic comments.

Shaima Dallali was voted president-elect of the NUS in March, but Jewish students raised concerns after historic tweets emerged referencing the massacre of Jews in the 628 Battle of Khaybar, modern-day Saudi Arabia

The NUS was criticised by Jewish student groups earlier this year after inviting controversial rapper Lowkey to appear at its conference for students from marginalised groups in Liverpool in March

The NUS was criticised by Jewish student groups earlier this year after inviting controversial rapper Lowkey to appear at its conference for students from marginalised groups in Liverpool in March

Reacting to a tweet announcing Ms Dallali’s election victory, the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) said a number of students had reached out citing concerns over her alleged support for speakers with ‘extremely challenging views’.

The union said: ‘Jewish students have spoken to us and raised their concerns over much of the messaging Dallali has put out on her social media in the past attacking the Jewish community, UJS, and supporting speakers with extremely challenging views.

‘We hope that she will come to the table, work with UJS and understand how to support Jewish students.

‘There have been many bridges broken between the NUS and Jewish students over the past weeks.

‘We call on Shaima and her team to join us in rebuilding those bridges to ensure that NUS becomes a space Jewish students once more feel welcomed into, rather than sidelined and excluded.’ 

A spokesperson for the NUS previously said it was aware of the allegations and revealed Ms Dallali was receiving racist abuse.

Addressing the tweet on the Battle of Khayber, Ms Dallali, on March 23, said: ‘Earlier today, I was made aware of a tweet I posted 10 years ago.

‘During Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2012. I reference the battle of Khayber, in which Muslim and Jewish armies fought. I was wrong to see the Palestine conflict as one between Muslims and Jews.

‘This reference made as a teenager was unacceptable, and I sincerely & unreservedly apologise.’

The statement from the Palestine Societies said: ‘We reject the smear campaign and harassment of Shaima Dallali and wish to make it clear that Shaima, as a dedicated and committed anti-racist organiser, has our full confidence to fulfil her duties as NUS President.’         

A spokesman for the UJS said: ‘Jewish students have raised important concerns about racism and inclusion and it is vital that NUS takes this matter seriously to ensure it is an inclusive space for all students.’ 

Last month, universities minister Michelle Donelan said the Government may stop working with the NUS over anti-Semitism claims.

She said she was ‘deeply concerned by antisemitism within the NUS’ and was considering reporting the union to the Charity Commission. 

Ms Dallali apologised for the 'wrong' and 'unacceptable' post she wrote as a teenager in 2012 and deleted the tweet

Ms Dallali apologised for the ‘wrong’ and ‘unacceptable’ post she wrote as a teenager in 2012 and deleted the tweet

In an online interview with the anti-Israel activist Asa Winstanley, Lowkey claimed mainstream media had ‘weaponised the Jewish heritage of [Volodymyr] Zelensky, the President of Ukraine, to try to stave off these genuine inquiries into the nature of the groups fighting in Ukraine’.

Lowkey pulled out of his scheduled appearance, though, with the NUS later releasing a lengthy statement in which it acknowledged the ‘strong response’ to his announcement as a guest and apologised to students ‘hurt by some of the things they’ve read about NUS’.

In a statement confirming the withdrawal of Lowkey from its annual conference, the NUS said: ‘Lowkey was due to speak at our Liberation Conference on 30 March in Liverpool but has taken the decision to pull out.

‘This matter has received some social media and press coverage and is connected to some deeply complex issues that are much much bigger than NUS and our events. In the midst of this coverage, our first concerns always lie with students.

‘Since we promoted Lowkey as a speaker, there has been a strong response to some of his recent actions and associations. Like with most issues discussed on social media or the press, there is a mix of facts, opinions and misinformation in circulation.

‘We are horrified to know that some students in our community, particularly Jewish students, may now be wondering if they will be fully comfortable at our upcoming events. We’re very sorry to any students who are hurt by some of the things they’ve read about NUS in the last few days.’  

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