NUS Vice-President Richard Brooks has come under fire after recent allegations that he colluded with the Israeli Embassy to unseat NUS President Malia Bouattia. Footage was obtained by Al-Jazeera of Brooks discussing how to unseat Bouattia with an undercover reporter posing as an activist called Robin. Brooks has since referred himself to the NUS for investigation.
The reporter was filmed being introduced to Brooks as chairman of the Young Labour Friends of Israel, by the Israeli diplomat Shai Masot. Brooks told Robin to “drop me a line whenever you want to have a conversation” if he wanted to have discussions with activists opposed to Bouattia.
He also offered to put the reporter in touch with other organisers across the UK, stating: “[if] you want to speak with someone in a certain geographical area, I’ll point you at the right people.” The film also reported that Brooks had visited Israel” as part of a delegation from the Union of Jewish Students (UJS).
Brooks, who is the NUS’ Vice-President for Union Development, has denied the allegations in a statement published on The Daily Touch and released on Twitter, stating that, to his knowledge, he “has never met someone from the Israeli Government.”
He described the allegations as “as wrong as [they are] hurtful,” and notes the “toxic level of debate” surrounding NUS national politics. He also criticised the “threats of violence against myself and my friends” that he has received since the footage came to light, and added that he would not apologise for the trip to Israel, which he described as “educational,” calling the aims of the UJS “noble and inspirational.”
An NUS spokesperson said: “NUS takes these allegations seriously. We are looking into them and, when we have all the information available, the behaviour of NUS officers will be reviewed and appropriate action taken.”
Commenting on the controversy, UEA SU Welfare Community & Diversity Officer Jo Swo said: “political factions in national student politics are one thing, but allegations that an NUS Officer has been working with a foreign government to dismantle our democratically elected leader who has received abuse and death threats crosses a line.”
She added: “Brooks’ failure to declare a government paid trip to Israel to NEC could be gross misconduct and makes the whole thing look very dodgy. He’s the VP of Union Development but seems to be focusing his time on fracturing NUS from within rather than making it stronger.”
UEA SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Amy Rust said: “that Richard Brooks has been discussing his dislike of the NUS President with Jewish student activists is hardly a surprise given his previous public comments about her- and as NUS has annual elections, working to run a candidate against her is hardly surprising either.” She continued: “however, other aspects of the allegations are serious and if true, should be tackled- which is why it is helpful to hear that he has referred himself for a full and proper investigation in accordance with NUS’ Code of Conduct.”