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The National Union of Students (NUS) is embroiled in a fresh anti-Semitism row after its president defended a university student who called a Jewish academic a “far-Right white supremacist”.
The Government last week cut all ties with the NUS, meaning it lost future funding and its seat at Whitehall tables, as the universities minister said it had “anti-Semitic rot at its heart”.
But days after the unprecedented step, Larissa Kennedy, the NUS president, publicly leapt to the defence of a Goldsmiths Student Union president after she was referred for investigation by her university over alleged anti-Semitism.
Goldsmiths, University of London, last week asked the students’ union - a separate body - to launch an investigation into comments on Twitter by Sara Bafo, its outgoing president.
Ms Bafo had taken aim at David Hirsh, a Jewish senior sociology lecturer at Goldsmiths, because she disagreed with his tweet claiming "there is an antisemitic edge to official, institutional, university campaigns to ‘decolonise’ education”.
Mr Hirsh said the "absolute ideology" of decolonising ignores other issues such as "de-Nazification and de-Stalinisation".
Backlash From Jewish Community
In response, Ms Safo sparked a backlash from the Jewish community by tweeting: "D*vid H*rsh is a far-Right white supremacist. All you have to do is read his work and tweets and that's all the confirmation needed."
But when she publicly revealed last week that she had been referred for investigation by university chiefs, the NUS president leapt to her defence.
Ms Kennedy, rather than condemning anti-Semitism, tweeted that it was a “disgusting move from Goldsmiths, University of London”, adding: “Masses of solidarity to Sara Bafo and every activist facing these threats in our movement.”
The NUS chief claimed that black and brown student activists were facing “concerted suppression” from the Government and universities and warned: “Let this be a message to every university and to government: the student movement will not be silenced.”
The intervention, coming days after the NUS was abandoned by the Government, has sparked fury from the Jewish community, who have already expressed concern about allegedly anti-Semitic posts endorsed by the new NUS president taking up post in July.
'Absurd and Disgusting'
Dave Rich, from the Community Security Trust, told The Telegraph: “David Hirsh is a world expert on antisemitism and there are very few people in this country who have worked as hard as he has to tackle antisemitism on the left and in academia.
“The suggestion that he is in any way racist or a white supremacist is both absurd and disgusting. The fact that his own institution is failing to defend him against this entirely spurious attack says everything about the state of antisemitism on our campuses.”
Ms Bafo claimed this week that Goldsmiths was a "violent institution". She posted online: "It's my last week as Goldsmiths SU president and Goldsmiths management has tried to get the SU trustee board to investigate me for a tweet I made in response to a Zionist Goldsmiths academic's explicit racist history and his delegitimisation of 'Decolonisation' campaigns."
The row escalated last night as the chief executive of Goldsmiths Student Union (SU) has insisted his organisation “won’t be investigating” the allegations because its outgoing president was “expressing her opinion” which is “protected as free speech”.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said last week he was "seriously concerned" at the level of reports of alleged anti-Semitism linked to the NUS, which this week announced its own independent QC-led probe into the scandal.
"Jewish students need to have confidence that this is a body that represents them, and we need to be sure that the student bodies that we engage with are speaking fairly for all students," he said.
A Goldsmiths University spokesman confirmed it would continue pushing for an investigation, saying: “On May 10, 2022, we asked Goldsmiths Students’ Union to investigate messages on twitter after concerns were raised that these could be antisemitic in nature.
“Goldsmiths Students’ Union is an independent charity which has its own policies and processes for investigating and we expect them to follow these. Goldsmiths remains committed to supporting all members of our inclusive community and demonstrating there is no place for prejudice on our campus."
The NUS and Goldsmiths SU were approached for comment.