The election of Malaka Shwaikh to three roles in the recent Students’ Guild elections has caused controversy, with the postgraduate student accused of anti-Semitism. However, the student insists she “will ﬁght against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.”
Shwaikh , a 26-year-old Palestinian refugee from Shijaia, Eastern Gaza, was elected as VP Research Postgraduate uncontested, NUS delegate, and a Students’ Guild Trustee. Since her election, numerous social media posts by Shwaikh have been uncovered, which can be classiﬁed as anti-Semitic.
Back in 2013, Shwaikh allegedly tweeted that “Zionism ideology is no different than that of Hitler’s”, though she insists her Twitter account was hacked when a series of anti-Zionist tweets, some of which have been picked up other media outlets, appeared on her account.
In 2014, she also tweeted: “When #Palestine was declared as a Jewish land, countries start planning to send their Jews citizens there #ConfrontingIsraeliApartheid”.
More recently, in 2017, on the Holocaust Memorial Day, she tweeted: “the shadow of the Holocaust continues to fall over us from the continuous Israeli occupation of Palestine to the election of Trump.”
A spokesman for Campaign Against Anti-Semitism told Exeposé:
“It is clear that Malaka Shwaikh has breached the University of Exeter’s disciplinary code for staff and students. We understand that she both studies and teaches at the university. Additionally, she is a trustee of the Guild which places her under obligations incumbent upon all trustees of charities under British law. Furthermore, the university has obligations under the government’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy. And naturally Ms Shwaikh can be held accountable for any crimes she has committed. We will be pursuing all of these avenues until we are satisﬁed that the university and the guild have dealt exhaustively with this matter and done all that is necessary to protect their students.”
“You seriously have to question how someone who has used deeply anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media can be elected”
However, the Campaign against Anti-Semitism is currently under a charity commission investigation following complaints such as a national petition ‘To get the charity commission to deregister the Zionist campaign against anti-Semitism’, too.
There have been multiple articles about Shwaikh, including one by an Exeter student for the Times of Israel in which she was called a “terrorist supporter”.
During Shwaikh’s PhD studies, she has also been travelling around the UK as a human rights activist to speak about her experiences as a refugee, and the IsareliPalestinian conﬂict.
On the election of Shwaikh, the Union of Jewish Students told Exeposé: “You seriously have to question how someone who has used deeply anti-Semitic rhetoric on social media can be elected in an SU election. There’s no way that any individual who compares the Israeli government to the Nazi regime, a comparison recognised as anti-Semitic according to the IHRA Deﬁnition of Anti-Semitism, can adequately represent the Jewish students at their university or in their Students’ Union.
They added “Whilst the recent statements from the Vice Chancellor and Guild President were a welcome response to the recent escalation in incidents, it is important that the University of Exeter and Exeter Guild take steps to ensure the safety and welfare of all Jewish students at Exeter.”
Students’ Guild President Toby Gladwin said the Guild “are passionate opponents of anti-Semitism in all forms; overt or subtle. Instances of discrimination in any form have to be relentlessly fought wherever they appear.”
“The cyber-bullying of our newly elected VP is unacceptable.”
However, Jewish student Marcel Golten, who studies MA Politics, spoke up at the Exeter FemSoc’s Anti-fascism on campus about the anti-Semitic accusations levelled against Shwaikh: “The cyber-bullying of our newly elected VP is unacceptable. Jews and Muslims are not natural enemies, and we must not let the Right divide us – we face the same threats: racist abuse against our communities has skyrocketed since Brexit.”
Yara Hawari, Palestinian activist and friend of Shwaik has said that the harassment “will have serious implications when she returns to Gaza” and her “freedom of movement” because “a simple Google search of Malaka reveals many inﬂammatory and abusive articles calling her a terrorist”. Hawari emphasised how “serious this is in the global atmosphere of Islamaphobia”.
In an ofﬁcial statement from Shwaikh, she stated that her latest tweet on Holocaust Memorial Day was to follow up a tweet that said “the Holocaust was one of the bleakest chapters in the history of the 20th century.” She said that the tweets cannot be separated.
Shwaikh told Exeposé, “I have never denied the horriﬁc crime of the Holocaust that was inﬂicted upon the Jewish people… the Tweet in question was referring to how following this genocide in Europe, and in an attempt at making amends, European powers supported a settler colonial project which would see Palestine wiped off the map. The gist of the tweet was that Palestinians have been made to pay for a genocide that was committed in Europe.”
The student further claims that the tweets from 8 February 2013 were a result of a hack. She said “If you notice the tweets follow the same format and content, and they were all tweeted in a short space of time…It is very common for social media accounts of activists to be hacked.” Shwaikh says she deleted the tweets once she noticed the hack, and changed all of her passwords for her social media accounts. Following the recent cyber-bullying, Shwaikh has deactivated her Twitter account. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism have since adopted her Twitter handle.
“I would like to reiterate that I will ﬁght against all forms of racism, including antisemitism.”
Regarding the recent online defamations, Shwaikh said: “Other social media posts that have been brought up by individuals attempting to discredit me were written between 2012-14.”
Shwaikh reasoned that her tweeting during this period was a result of the “trauma and devastation” she encountered when the Gaza strip were recovering from heavy bombing campaign, which saw the death of 2000 civilians. She said: “Many family members, friends and neighbours of mine were killed by the Israeli Army.”
Reﬂecting on the tweets, she conﬁrmed that she would “phrase them differently if written today.”
She concluded “I would like to reiterate that I will ﬁght against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. My activism for Palestine is not contradictory to this. In fact, the struggle for Palestinian human rights is part of a struggle against racism and for all human rights globally.
“Rest assured, in my newly elected positions as Trustee, NUS delegate and VP Postgraduate Research I will represent all students equally regardless of their faith, race, gender and sexual orientation.”
There is now a letter of support for Shwaikh, which has been signed by over 130 Exeter students, to “show support and solidarity” for her since the online abuse. The petition states that her intentions are to “seek justice and defend the rights of Palestinians”. It reads: “Smears of anti-Semitism to counter this and digging up tweets from several years ago and taking them out of context are disingenuous.”
Since print publication, Schwaikh has released a full statement, available here.