NUS Vice-President, Richard Brooks, responds to ‘alleged’ scandal involving the Israeli government and the current NUS President, Malia Bouattia.

Yesterday, I was implicated in an ‘alleged’ scandal, involving the Israeli government, different political groups in NUS and an undercover reporter. I spent a long time reflecting upon my role in a national representative body who does so much work that I’m proud of and privileged to be a part of.

It’s no surprise to anybody who knows me, or has heard me speak publicly, that myself and Malia don’t see eye to eye on NUS or the future of the student movement. It’s clear to everyone we have backed different candidates and we have voted for different motions. Myself and the far left elected leadership of NUS politically disagree on lots of things. It’s therefore not a shock or an exposé that I politically organise against what I think to be an ineffectual and damaging Presidency for Students’ Unions and for students.

As you will all know (and is on record) I have written blogs and signed letters pleading with Malia to answer questions from Jewish Officers and Jewish students. They believe their views should matter in this movement as much as anyone else’s. I do this because I believe people deserve legitimate answers to legitimate questions about the views of NUS’ elected leadership and that Jewish students have the right to determine and defend themselves from oppression.

Have I been to Israel like a long line of Officers and NEC members going back decades? Yes. Will I apologise for doing so? No. What UJS does to try to raise the debate about the Middle East and anti-Semitism in society is noble and inspirational. I personally found the trips educational and gave me a lot of confidence to engage with these issues. Not that it should matter but I have been invited and accepted invitations from FOSIS as well, although unfortunately it clashed with Officer Training. My views on supporting a two state solution and a road to peace are well documented and I am proud to stand with UJS in ensuring everyone feels they have voices in our open, inclusive, democratic debates.

During my time as an NUS VP I’ve been asked to meet with thousands of student groups and representatives and organisations. Hopefully you all know me as a friendly guy who reaches out and talks to many people. So when someone claiming to be a student involved in our movement and left wing politics emailed me asking to chat about getting involved in student groups for Jewish students of course I met them.

I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, but did I know they were lying and a secret journalist trying to frame me as some part of Israeli government conspiracy? Of course not. And what a waste of 20 mins of my life that caused far more trouble and stress and threats of violence than it’s worth. The idea that I am part of some kind of global conspiracy co-ordinating with global governments to ‘overthrow’ NUS’ leaders is as wrong as it is hurtful – I met someone who I thought was a student organiser for coffee.

It turns out that people who used to organise with Malia, and vote with her and support her, whilst on NEC attacking me and Megan and Students’ Unions are now journalists in the media.

I have never met – to my knowledge – someone from the Israeli Government. I organise legitimately and politically within NUS’ structures to get the best outcomes for students’ unions as our members. I meet different student groups across the political spectrum. I try and learn about conflicts. The ‘exposé’ documentary shows me saying that I do politics and disagree with the far left. None of these thing are surprises.

What is surprising is the ability of certain groups of the student movement to condemn me, post violent threats against me and link me to a worldwide conspiracy based on an article written by their friend and documentary in which I appear for all of 30 seconds, saying not much of note.

You may have seen a number of posts on social media in the last 24 hours, attacking myself, the Union of Jewish Students and other parts of the student movement. This is for the audacity of disagreeing with another elected official, and for meeting what we thought was a student activist and instead was an undercover reporter. To those reading this, not involved in NUS’ politics or non-students, I would say that this is not the sum total of the national union of students. It is filled with inspiring and brilliant volunteers and activists who make students’ lives better, day to day. I plan on continuing being a part of the fight for students and their students’ unions.

BY Richard Brooks, Vice-President of the National Union of Students (NUS)

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