Saturday, 28 May 2011

NUS President Right to Criticize Palestinian Policy

The president of the National Union of Students Aaron Porter should be applauded for speaking out against the new policy of the NUS to pursue "freedom for Palestine" and the end of the occupation of Gaza. Porter does not criticize some of the rather controversial ways in which the NUS intends to achieve its new policy, including sending members on a flotilla to Gaza in cooperation with pro-Hamas groups like Viva Palestina. Rather, he highlights the fact that the policy will have negative effects for Jewish students on campus. This is true.

The NUS leadership contains many individuals who support the policy and would consider themselves pro-Palestine activists. I do not necessarily criticize them for this position. Yet, the main reason that many, and it seems to me most students are interested in the NUS is because an NUS card gives you access to discounts at almost every high street shop. Nevertheless, the NUS is supposed to represent students and while it is fair enough to say most students are opposed to tuition fees, is it really fair to say that most students want Israel to immediately pull out of Gaza? Do most students have nearly enough education on the matter to make a fully informed decision?

It is likely that most students do not see the NUS as an organisation that would adopt such a highly controversial campaign. I fear students on campus will jump on board a “human rights campaign” which they really know little about but act on good faith that the NUS has adopted a sensible campaign which reflects the views of the majority of students. As a consequence anti-Zionist activism on campus will increase and this undoubtedly makes campus a more uncomfortable place for Jewish students to be.

However, there is an even more worrying way in which the NUS policy could influence the behaviour of students on campus. The NUS will be working with groups like the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and while they criticise Hamas, they are very happy to work with Viva Palestina who are pro-Hamas. It is inevitable NUS pro-Palestinian activists will come into contact with pro-Hamas groups and this will help to legitimise Hamas among students. I can think of little worse for Jewish students than Hamas leaders becoming the Che Guevaras of the Palestinian cause.

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