Middle East Crisis

Middle East Crisis Response Guidance - For students, SUs, officers and student groups

At NUS, we are not experts on Israel and Palestine, and we do not imagine we have the answers to this ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Our simple message is that we stand against terrorism, war, and violence against all human beings. We believe that international law must be adhered to. Israeli and Palestinian people have the right to live in peace and prosperity, free from terrorism, free from occupation, free from violence, free from fear.

We know that violence in Israel and Palestine means a higher risk of antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli incidents in the UK.

So for NUS and SUs this is a moment to support students, stand firm in tackling hate-speech and abuse, and de-escalate fear and tension on campus.

For students this is a moment to show leadership by speaking and acting with compassion and sensitivity for fellow students no matter their identity or their politics.


What is NUS doing?



Know what’s going on

  • Convened the NUS’ Crisis Response Team
  • Taking professional advice on developments in the region
  • Meet regularly with national student groups, SUs and sector/govt bodies to share information and coordinate our response

Hold space for our diverse membership

  • Let students know we are here for everyone in our diverse membership through considered and consistent messaging
  • Meet with students, SUs, and student groups to listen and support
  • Promote how to talk about Israel and Palestine in an inclusive way  

Support students’ unions and students to respond

  • Urgent Response SU Helpline for SUs open 8am-8pm 7 days a week
  • Published guidance on how to respond
  • Host weekly drop-in sessions for students’ union and student leaders
  • Provide information on antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian abuse and discrimination and how to tackle it


What should students’ unions do?



Know what’s going on

  • Convene a Crisis Response Team (with the institution) for regular huddles and briefings
  • Meet regularly with the institution, local organisations, local govt, with Israeli Society, Jewish Society, Islamic Society, Palestine Society, and student political groups

Hold space for students and student groups

  • Let students know the SU is here for everyone in its diverse membership through considered and consistent messaging
  • Ramp up information on antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian abuse and discrimination and how to tackle it
  • Promote how to talk about Israel and Palestine in an inclusive way 
  • Offer guidance to student leaders and groups on how to respond
  • With institution, understand the risk of external organisations targeting students and the SU/institution’s role to stop unlawful hate speech, promoting proscribed organisations, or inciting violence

Support students who are impacted by the situation

  • Brief SU and institutional support services and personal tutors
  • Actively signpost students who may need support through relevant groups, societies and networks
  • Pastoral support for students who face disciplinary or criminal allegations for their speech or actions


What should students, learners and groups do?

We encourage students and officers across the UK to show leadership in the words they choose and the actions they take in response to the crisis.

In practice this means:

Speak and act with compassion, sensitivity and humanity
Try to be generous in spirit to people who are reacting from a place of pain and fear

Read up on how to talk about Israel and Palestine in an inclusive way

Go out of your way to make sure Jewish, Israeli, Muslim and Palestinian students feel - and are - safe and welcome

Don’t stand by if you witness antisemitism, Islamophobia, or anti-Palestinian abuse or violence take place – report it, have the difficult conversation with a friend, take action

Never interrupt a vigil with ‘counter-messaging’ or put opposing stickers on top of a poster

Never justify, celebrate, or excuse the violence, killing or suffering in Israel and Palestine

Never target Jewish, Israeli, Muslim or Palestinian students with hate or abuse, don’t assume their political beliefs, and don’t demand that they take a ‘stance’


Responding to hate speech, discrimination, hate crimes, and abuse

Bystander intervention: If it is safe to do so and you feel able to, you can consider if an intervention
is appropriate. Options for bystander intervention include:

  • direct intervention: e.g. tell someone their speech is harmful or take someone aside for a conversation
  • distract: e.g. create a bit of space in the situation that allows someone to exit
  • delegate: e.g. approach someone senior in your SU or at an event and ask them to intervene
  • document what’s happening: e.g. take a note of what is being said/done and by whom

Approach the victim: Approach the target of the abuse. Ask if they are OK. Ask if you can help in anyway - for example accompanying them as they leave a harmful situation and staying with them
until a friend gets there. Find a safe place for them to sit down. Help them report the incident.

Report it: Reporting discriminatory incidents, hate crimes, and hate speech is incredibly important even if nothing can be done about a specific incident or it has already been dealt with informally.
Options to report include:

  • Report an incident in NUS or at an NUS event here
  • Report an incident to your students’ union or institution
  • If you see or experience antisemitism report it to the Community Security Trust here
  • The Union of Jewish Students have opened a Welfare Hotline for students on 02074243288
  • Support and information about Islamophobia from the Muslim Council of Britain is here
  • Report hate crime to the Police here

Call 999 if a crime is in progress or if someone is in immediate danger