Bonkers student politics has the NUS president it deserves

If you want to know how screwed-up student politics has become, get this: the National Union of Students is now run by someone who describes the mainstream media as “Zionist-led”.

Yes, this supposedly radical student outfit, famously packed with lefties who fancy themselves as progressive, now has a president who peddles the same foul myths that are spouted by hard right-wingers. NUS presidents once had convictions; now they have conspiracy theories.

The new president is one Malia Bouattia. She was formerly the NUS’s black students’ officer, and has now been elected its president.

She is a walking, talking snapshot of how bonkers student politics has become.

In 2014, she refused to back an NUS motion condemning ISIS and expressing support for the Kurds on the basis that it was Islamophobic. She said “condemnation of ISIS” is used as a “justification for war and blatant Islamophobia”.

When you can’t even bring yourself to say ISIS is wicked, to take a stand against a barbaric army that slaughters “infidels” in the most obscene way imaginable and treats women as the lowest form of life, then you know your moral compass is busted beyond repair.

Malia Bouattia
Malia Bouattia

Bouattia, as revealed by the student newspaper The Tab, has also given a speech in which she praised Palestinain violence and attacked the West’s “Zionist-led media” for failing to tell the truth about the Middle East.

In the speech she unwittingly exposed her own disdain for ordinary Muslims. She said the reason some of them don’t support Palestinian violence is because they’re suffering from “internalised Islamophobia”.

In short, they’re riddled with self-hatred, no doubt as a result of having been brainwashed with anti-Muslim misinformation by the media.

So, unlike her, your average Muslim is a bit dim, fickle, suggestible, their hollow minds colonised by Big Media. For someone who claims to be concerned about Islamophobia, Bouattia is weirdly fond of promoting a view of Muslims as overgrown children.

Then there’s her view of Zionists. She moves far beyond criticising the idea of Zionism, into rumour-mongering about the evil reach of Zionists into media life across the West.

She talks about “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets” and claims they’re helping to oppress the “global South”.

This echoes the foulest arguments pushed by anti-Semites of old: that the press was controlled by Jewish forces and that they used their privileged pedestal to hoodwink people and control world affairs.

Bouattia might prefer “Zionist” to “Jew”, and “global South” to “the world”, but her argument amounts to a PC-rehashing of the vile notion that “those people” have too much power.

Old fascistic cartoons showed caricatured Jewish figures feeding people slop/information from a cauldron marked “Juden Presse”. Now this idea has been given a bit of leftish spit-and-polish and has been embraced by the NUS.

In some radical student circles, a nasty new anti-“Zio” politics is taking hold. The chairman of Oxford University’s Labour Club resigned earlier this year, claiming some members have “some kind of problem with Jews”. Other students now find it virtually impossible to hold pro-Israel meetings without facing the shouts and demands for censorship of student agitators.

The talk of “Zios” and their “white privilege” is especially worrying. It suggests that the very student leaders who pose as anti-racist harbour some worrying racial ideas of their own.

Indeed, it’s becoming a new rule of today’s Kafkaesque student politics that those who shout loudest about the scourge of racism and the need for Safe Spaces against bigotry will likely be purveyors of the oldest racism and the oldest bigotry.

This is because their outlook isn’t really one of anti-racism, that old, noble goal of achieving equality and freedom for all. Rather, they practise the politics of identity, something altogether different, something sectional and ugly and motivated more by the culture of victimhood than a belief in egalitarianism.

And in this privilege-checking world, where they’re constantly creating hierarchies of the oppressed, Jews are just too white and nice for their liking, so they must be bad, undeserving of sympathy, and perhaps deserving of hatred. In the pseudo-radical name of “checking white privilege”, they resuscitate some very old racial thinking.

When I was at university 20 years ago, the NUS was obsessed with No Platforming the far right. Now, in an eye-swivelling turnaround, it has adopted some of the arguments of the far right.

Talk of a “Zionist-led media” is not progressive, it’s prejudice – old, ugly prejudice, now at the very top of the NUS.

About the Author
Brendan O'Neill is editor of Spiked.
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