Listen: Gaza student in UK speaks out against harassment

Pro-Israel groups have launched a smear campaign against a student leader at the University of Exeter in the UK over her Palestine activism.

Malaka Mohammed, a contributor to The Electronic Intifada and a leader in the student government at Exeter, is from the Gaza Strip. For the past several years she has been organizing direct actions in support of Palestinian rights.

The attacks against Mohammed began after she launched her run for vice president of the students’ guild – the union representing students across University of Exeter campuses – while publicly organizing rallies against racist graffiti found on campus and in protest of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Being a Palestine solidarity activist, she said, “means that you’re also standing against all forms of racism, from Islamophobia to anti-Semitism.”

Smear campaign

The Campaign Against Antisemitism, a Zionist charity in the UK, has accused Mohammed (who is referred to by her family name, Malaka Shwaikh), of being a “terrorist-supporting anti-Semite,” sparking a barrage of threats and harassment by Israel supporters.

“This is not the first time Israeli-aligned groups in the UK [have] attacked Muslim women of color in positions of power,” she told The Electronic Intifada. She added that Israel supporters demanded that the university expel her and urged the students’ guild to sack her from elected leadership positions.

Mohammed said she is seeking legal advice.

Palestine activists in the UK are facing expanding repression by university administrations under pressure from Israel lobby groups.

Free speech under threat

“The right of free speech on campus has been threatened,” Mohammed said.

At the same time, campus Palestine rights campaigning is growing.

The University of Exeter Students’ Guild formally dismissed the claims against Mohammed this week, while nearly 300 supporters have signed a petition in solidarity with her.

A petition has also been launched to de-register the Campaign Against Antisemitism as a charity over its smearing of Palestine rights activists.

The attacks against Mohammed are similar to those against Malia Bouattia, president of the UK’s National Union of Students and an outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights.

Pro-Israel operatives, including a senior officer in the National Union of Students, planned to oust Bouattia, as revealed in a recent Al Jazeera undercover investigation on Britain’s pro-Israel lobby.

“These attacks will never deter us from continuing to fight against all forms of injustice and racism,” Mohammed said.

Listen to the interview with Malaka Mohammed via the media player above.

Theme music by Sharif Zakout

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Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).