● Malia Bouattia voted out as National Union of Students’ president after ‘hostile and divisive’ year
MALIA BOUATTIA, the controversial leader of the National Union of Students, has failed in her bid to be re-elected as the organisation’s president.
Ms Bouattia — who described the University of Birmingham as “a Zionist outpost”, made reference to a “Zionist-led media”, and appeared to back violent Palestinian resistance — lost to Shakira Martin in the first round of Wednesday’s election. Ms Martin received 402 votes to Ms Bouattia’s 272.
After her election last year it emerged that the NUS had investigated Ms Bouattia over her comments.
The inquiry, in early 2015, found her guilty of misconduct and concluded that it was “not unreasonable” to regard her comments as antisemitic.
Her views were later described by the Commons’ Home Affairs Select Committee as “outright racism”.
Ms Martin said: “I am honoured and humbled to have been elected.
“I take this as a vote of trust that our members believe I can lead our national movement to be the fighting and campaigning organisation we need it to be, representing the breadth of our diverse membership.”
During the presidential campaign, Ms Martin had made a concerted effort to win support from
Jewish students, attending the Union of Jewish Students’ awards dinner last month and going on a UJS-organised trip to Israel and the West Bank in January.
She said before going to the Middle East that although she had originally declined the invitation, she had changed her mind because “it is essential I listen to the voices of my membership and educate myself on particular issues such as Israel and Palestine to ensure that I make informed decisions as a leader”.
Her campaign was supported by a number of prominent Jewish students, including Izzy Lenga, who herself was elected NUS vicepresident for welfare issues, receiving 393 votes to her opponent’s 328.
Before the vote, Ms Lenga told conference delegates in Brighton: “Even in this election, people have referred to me as ‘the Jewish candidate’.
“I’m not just ‘the Jewish candidate’, I’m a proud Jewish woman who campaigns and wins on finance and housing and health and equality.”
UJS extended its “heartfelt congratulations” to the new president.
A UJS spokesperson said: “Shakira’s election demonstrates a rejection of the divisive rhetoric used by Malia Bouattia, whose past antisemitic comments have remained problematic for Jewish
students for over a year. The overwhelming majority of Jewish students across the UK will be grateful that NUS will soon be led once again by a capable leader who is genuinely committed to ensuring that the student movement stands up for all its members.”
UJS also said it was “delighted” at Ms Lenga’s election, commending her “exceptional commitment” as the University of Birmingham’s education officer, on the NUS NEC and in her wider campaigning work for Jewish students and students from a range of backgrounds and cultures. They added: “We hope Izzy’s success will empower other Jewish students to run for leadership roles, both in their student unions and nationally.
“We are excited to see what Izzy will achieve in her new role and wish her every success in the coming year”. Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies president, said Ms Bouattia had “made the NUS a hostile place for Jewish students.”
He added: “It is welcome that students of all faiths across the country have chosen to reject divisive and bigoted attitudes in favour of a welcoming environ-ment for all”.
The NUS also passed a motion combating antisemitism which included adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of Jew-hate.
An amendment put forward by anti-Zionist Jewish students proposing an alternative definition was rejected.
New NUS president Shakira Martin
Elected vice-president: Izzy Lenga