NUS Vice President Richard Brooks is alleged to have worked with senior figures inside the Israeli embassy to oust the NUS President Malia Bouattia
An investigation by Al-Jazeera has found evidence of collusion between Brooks and Israeli diplomat Shai Masot to oust Bouattia from her position. In a secret recording between the undercover reporter, known only as Robin, Brooks was heard discussing with Masot on how to remove Bouattia, an activist for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) against Israel from her role.
Brooks proclaimed to be a senior figure in the NUS faction against Bouattia telling the reporter to “drop me a line whenever you want to have a conversation” to speak to other figures connected to the faction. Bouattia, the first female black Muslim woman to be the NUS President was criticised during her electoral campaign and after she was elected over alleged anti-Semitism due to her outspoken anti-Zionist stance. Bouattia has consistently denied these claims.
Brooks admitted to claims he had been working against the President remarking on a statement released via Facebook that it’s ‘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.’
‘I have never met – to my knowledge – someone from the Israeli Government. I organize 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.’
Brooks was also heard talking about a trip to Israel funded by the Union Of Jewish Students. Robbie Young, another NUS vice president and Labour activist, was filmed alongside Brooks speaking of the trip. However, the group failed to declare their trip to the NUS’s national executive council. In response to this Brooks said ‘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.’
Brooks went onto write that ‘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 [sic] 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 organizer for coffee.’
Bouattia was elected on a radical platform in early 2016 in a campaign constantly linked with controversy. Bouattia who had previously twice served as the NUS black students’ officer highlighted that her presidency would reject Prevent and bring back NUS activism. Bouattia made headlines after opposing a motion to condemn ISIS remarking that “We recognise that condemnation of Isis appears to have become a justification for war and blatant Islamophobia”. During her campaign more than 50 Jewish student’s societies wrote an open letter to Bouattia asking her to clarify her position on antisemitism specifically comments calling the University of Birmingham, where she attended, “something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education”.
BDS is a Palestinian led movement for global activism against the alleged crimes of Israel and the failure to recognise the Palestinian state. It involves withdrawing support for companies that operate in Israel and seeking sanctions against Israel such as ending free-trade and removing them from events such as the FIFA world cup. Israel has taken steps against the BDS movement in the UK with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan describing the UK as the centre of the BDS movement.
The investigation following MPs calls for Israeli diplomats involved in recent scandals over Israeli influence on British politics to be expelled. Masot was filmed admitting to have helped setup pro-Israeli groups in the UK such as Young Conservative Friends of Israel. Michael Rubin, the parliamentary officer for the Labour Friends of Israel group and the former chair of Labour students, was filmed saying that he and Masot “work really closely together, but a lot of it is behind the scenes.” Rubin previously helped run Megan Dunn’s successful campaign for NUS presidency against Bouattia.
The Gryphon has contacted Bouattia for comment.