Rebecca Tuck isn't fit to lead the investigation into anti-Semitism in the NUS
The National Union of Students (NUS) is a confederation that represents at least 7 million students across the United Kingdom. Following a very public campaign led by former political director of the Conservative Friends of Israel, MP Robert Harlow, against what he termed an anti-Semitism crisis in the NUS, the board of the student organisation announced an independent investigation into anti-Semitism within it.
The NUS board stated that it would “work closely with the Union of Jewish Students” (UJS), allowing the Queen's Counsel (QC) lawyer appointed to lead the investigation to be vetted. The barrister selected, with the blessing of the UJS, is Rebecca Tuck.
But the findings of my research bring into question her suitability to lead such an investigation.
"Tuck’s online activity reveals that she has a clear and stated opinion on the issue of anti-Semitism in universities, which it seems would ultimately harm the integrity of this investigation"
The bias of Rebecca Tuck
Tuck’s online activity reveals that she has a clear and stated opinion on the issue of anti-Semitism in universities, which it seems would ultimately harm the integrity of this investigation.
Her publicised opinion on the issue immediately calls into question her ability to investigate in a neutral manner, particularly when considering the principles enshrined within the Bar Standards Board Handbook. On the first page of the handbook, it states that barristers “must maintain [their] independence”. Ultimately, it is important to note that all practising barristers, including Tuck, must abide by these rules and principles.
Before making her Twitter account private following the announcement that she would lead this investigation, Tuck shared a Times article on May 23rd 2021 titled “I’m an English Student – It’s not my job as a Jew to answer for Israel over Gaza”. The article makes the case that young people in British universities supporting Palestinians is synonymous with anti-Semitism, and claims that “conflict in the middle east has led, as it always does, to anti-Semitism on British campuses.”
Tuck wrote in her tweet that she was “shocked and saddened by the university experience by the children I’ve watched grow up in my community as proud Jews, now hiding their hoodies/identities.” This tweet alone could cause a fair observer to question her suitability to lead an investigation into anti-Semitism in the NUS.
In June 2021, Tuck co-authored an article titled “Anti-Semitism in the workplace”. When discussing the “terminology of anti-Semitism”, she referred to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) deeply controversial definition, which has been criticised by human rights organisations and Palestinians for equating “targeting of Israel” as a nation with being anti-Semitic. The definition has paved the way for the tarnishing of those fighting for Palestinian liberation.
"In April 2022, as part of its campaign against the NUS, the UJS launched an open letter demanding that the NUS and “all of its current and future” leaders must “publicly commit” to the IHRA’s controversial definition on antisemitism"
The bias of the Union of Jewish Students
In 2022, the NUS released an online statement that explicitly said that it had “worked closely with the Union of Jewish Students to make the appointment” of Rebecca Tuck QC. Therefore, it is important to examine the involvement of the UJS in this investigation and why that could be problematic.
In April 2022, as part of its campaign against the NUS, the UJS launched an open letter demanding that the NUS and “all of its current and future” leaders must “publicly commit” to the IHRA’s controversial definition on antisemitism. Shockingly, a number of the signatures to support this petition were proven to have been forged, and many of the Jewish students whose signatures were falsified publicly protested against the use of their names in this way.
Prominent Jewish academic Barnaby Raine requested his name be removed and condemned the UJS for associating “me with racism without my consent”. He questioned “how did you allow my signature and several others to be falsified in this letter,” but the UJS never provided an answer.
Hi @UJS_UK how did you allow my signature and several others to be falsified on this letter? Please investigate. This letter supports an IHRA text which denies Palestinians the right to talk freely about their dispossession, so you've associated me with racism without my consent. https://t.co/MNvYEXEFDD— Barnaby Raine (@BarnabyRaine) April 13, 2022
Nina Freedman, the current UJS president, was recorded late last year directly addressing the Israeli president Isaac Herzog and proudly announcing that UJS alumni “are currently serving in senior positions in the Israeli government, the foreign ministry, the IDF [Israeli Defence Force] and even the president’s office”.
To reinforce this strong relationship between Israel and the UJS, Nina Freedman later went on to mention that the father of Isaac Herzog had been the president of the UJS back in the 1940s.Former UJS campaigns director Josh Nagil stated several years ago that the UJS enjoys “a productive working relationship with the Israeli embassy” and candidate for the UJS presidency, Adam Schapira, stated on Al Jazeera documentary The Lobby that the UJS was funded by the Israeli embassy in London.
The UJS has organised trips to Israel for prominent NUS figures, including in 2017 when serving NUS president Shakira Martin was taken by the UJS to stay at illegal Israeli settlements like Mitzpe Yericho in occupied Palestine.
To conclude, it seems doubtful that the UJS selected Tuck is fit to lead an investigation into anti-Semitism within the NUS. A publicly expressed opinion on the issue demonstrates a preconceived bias which is deeply damaging to the credibility of this investigation. Failing to maintain her independence on the subject goes against one of the core duties enshrined within the law profession.
The NUS would be well served to consider other investigators who might actually deliver a fair and impartial judgement on this subject.
Ibrahim is a UK-based Palestinian researcher and activist. He received his masters degree in Middle East Studies from Leiden University, specialising in the formation of Palestine since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
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