BRICUP Statement on NUS Tuck Report

| BRICUP |

A Report on complaints about antisemitism towards Jewish students within the National Union of Students concludes that discussions about Israel and Palestine have made them feel uncomfortable. The choice of the KC to conduct the Inquiry (Rebecca Tuck) needed Union of Jewish Students approval. BRICUP’s analysis of the Report finds its content as flawed as the process of appointing the investigator.


The Tuck Report into complaints of antisemitism in the National Union of Students is a travesty. The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) gave written and oral evidence to the Tuck Inquiry about the danger of criticism of Israel being assumed to be antisemitic. Evidently we were talking to deaf ears. 

Key points 

  • The selection of the KC to conduct the Inquiry was subject to a veto from the Union of Jewish Students, which represents just one of the views that Jewish students hold on Israel/Palestine. 
  • The Report acknowledges far-right antisemitism on campus, and then ignores it to concentrate on criticisms students make of Israel. 
  • The Report briefly acknowledges that campaigning against Israel’s crimes, e.g. by advocating for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), is not necessarily antisemitic, but makes recommendations that would, in effect, suppress it. 
  • The Report recommends eliminating candidates for NUS office based on historic social media posts, including immature teenage comments ; this is a licence for the selective elimination of those with passionate social commitments. 
  • Overall the recommendations if adopted will intensify the existing chilling effect on free speech over Israel/Palestine on campus. 

Statement 

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) expresses its dismay at the Report, Independent investigation into allegations of antisemitism within NUS. Dismay but sadly not surprise. 

The selection of the ‘independent’ investigator into antisemitism in the National Union of Students (NUS) was made conditional on his/her acceptability to the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), an organisation partly funded by the Israeli Embassy. The framing of the report by Rebecca Tuck KC reflects this provenance on page after page. 

The Tuck Report produces no credible evidence of the prevalence of the ‘anti-Zionist’ antisemitism it seeks to inhibit. No survey was carried out. No evidence is offered that UJS represents all Jewish students. The data it uses was gathered with the assistance of an energetic campaign by UJS among its activists. There has been no attempt to discover how representative these views and experiences are of Jewish students at UK universities. The Report marginalises other Jewish voices. It even acknowledges (on page 1) that its approach carries “an inherent risk of being partisan and incomplete”. 

The most reliable source of evidence on the attitudes of British Jews to Israel is the 2015 survey carried out by City University. When asked “do you consider yourself to be a Zionist ?” 31% replied ‘no’ and 10% responded “Not sure”. That 41%, or whatever the figure now is 7 years later, is a barely acknowledged presence in the Report. 

The bias in the Report’s analysis runs through its selection of extended quotations from a range of books, articles and other reports that are used to justify its conclusions and recommendations. They run to many pages in length. Overwhelmingly they are the work of committed supporters of Israel and of the discredited IHRA ‘working definition’ of antisemitism. The one clear exception runs to only 5 lines – and that is only a statement on the length of time that the debate about antisemitism has been running. Its author was one of those who gave verbal evidence to the Inquiry. Yet his authoritative book-length critique of the conflation of antisemitism with anti-Zionism is not even mentioned. 

The actions recommended by the Report will give added impetus to the silencing of the voices of Palestinian students and those who support the rights of Palestinians, who live under what the prestigious human rights bodies Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have unequivocally described as apartheid. Nowhere in the report is the significance of this outrage to human rights even mentioned. Repeated concern is expressed, however, for the discomfort that (some) Jewish students have experienced in NUS debates and other meetings. 

The Report in effect recommends the avoidance of this discomfort through the suppression of active debate on Israel/Palestine. Debates on BDS should only be allowed under the control of ‘an experienced facilitator’. Many students outraged at the violation of the human rights of Palestinians will be prevented from even running for NUS office by the vetting of their historic social media accounts. 

That there is a disturbing level of low-level antisemitism on many campuses was revealed in 2020 in a magisterial report by the Academic Board of University College London. This antisemitism consists principally of derogatory remarks based on traditional stereotyping. The Tuck Report urges a ‘zero tolerance approach to antisemitism’ but has nothing to say about the educational programme that would be needed to achieve it. Indeed this low level type of antisemitism is barely mentioned in the Tuck Report. 

Instead it homes in, unerringly, on incidents and events in which political criticism has been made of Israel. These make Jewish students ‘uncomfortable’. The Report allows the potential discomfort to some, and by no means all, Jewish students to trump what should be the over-riding concern to preserve freedom of expression in our universities. If implemented, these recommendations will deter, even prevent, students from exploring and expressing their concerns about social injustice. That is a travesty of the sort of education we should be providing. 

NOTES : 

1. BRICUP contact : Professor Jonathan Rosenhead 

2. The Report into antisemitism in NUS can be found here