UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

City University Students Union reported to Charity Commission over unlawful BDS Campaign

The President of City University’s Israel Society,  with assistance from UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI),  has reported the  City Students’ Union to the Charity Commission for conducting an unlawful BDS campaign targeting Israel.

City, University of London Students’ Union is a charity  whose objects are the advancement of education of students for the public benefit.  The objects do not include conducting an extraneous political campaign that does not advance education at the university.

Begzat Mirayev, President of the Israel Society, wrote in his letter to the Charity Commission: “We  believe that it is unlawful for the Charity to conduct this campaign….  We also believe that the campaign is liable to result in serious harm for Jewish students and will ultimately undermine education at the university instead of advancing it.”

The complaint relates to a motion for the City Students’ Union to campaign in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions targeting Israel. The motion was passed in December 2021, and the Union has now confirmed that it  intends to carry it out.  The full text of the motion is set out at pages 13-14 of this document.

UKLFI wrote a letter to the Trustees of the City Students Union on 28 November 2021, before the vote, setting out in detail why the BDS motion was illegal.  This letter was sent to the Trustees by both UKLFI and by Mr Mirayev, on behalf of the Israel Society.  No response was received addressing the points made in the letter, but on 23 February the Vice President of the Students Union  informed Mr Mirayev  that the Trustee Board had decided that “the motion is within the charitable objectives of the Union and compliant with Charitable Law … The motion will be published on the Union website and is active policy of the Union”.

 The email, sent by Shahd Haj Khalil, Vice President (Community & Wellbeing) City Students’ Union featured a logo at the bottom of the email with the slogans “Save Gaza, Free Palestine!”  – which many people understand as a call for the destruction of Israel.

The Trustee Board of City Students Union is chaired by Shaima Dallali, president-elect of the National Union of Students (NUS).

UKLFI’s letter pointed out that extensive research at US universities has found a close correlation between BDS activity and the targeting of Jewish students for harm. For example, it was found that “The best statistical predictor of anti-Jewish hostility, as measured by actions that directly target Jewish students for harm, is the amount of BDS activity”.

Pervasive antisemitism at British universities is a very major concern of the Jewish community. A recent survey carried out by YouGov and Kings College London found that 92% of British Jews consider that antisemitism at British universities is a problem and 84% think it is a “very big problem” or “quite a big problem”.

The government also regards antisemitism at universities as a serious problem. For example, on 23 March 2022, responding to a question by Andrew Percy MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism, the Prime Minister said: “Our universities have, for far too long, been tolerant of casual or indeed systematic antisemitism. I hope that everybody understands the need for change—for rapid and irreversible change—but it is also important that we have an antisemitism taskforce devoted to rooting out antisemitism in education at all levels”

Jonathan Turner, chief executive of UKLFI commented:  “We hope the Charity Commission will intervene, because City, University of London, like other universities, disclaims responsibility for the activities of the Students’ Union.”