Malia Bouattia has been defeated in her bid for re-election as President of the National Union of Students (NUS). Shakira Martin has been elected to succeed Bouattia and we look forward to getting to know her better and working with her to root out antisemitism in the organisation.
Candidates for other elected positions (who may yet win them) have been exposed as having previously made offensive comments about Jews, whilst a survey of 485 Jewish students by the NUS showed that more than a quarter are living in fear of an antisemitic attack and less than half would be comfortable attending an NUS event.
Bouattia has previously called Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost in higher education” because it has “the largest Jsoc [Jewish student society] in the country.” She has railed against “Zionist-led media outlets”, defended Palestinian terrorism as “resistance” and voted against condemning ISIS. When called on by Campaign Against Antisemitism and countless student leaders to retract her comments, she penned an article in TheGuardian claiming that her accusers were simply sexists and racists. Bouattia since refused to confirm that Israel has a right to even exist, and told an audience at the School of Oriental and African Studies that the government’s anti-terrorism strategy is led by “Zionist and neo-con lobbies”. Last July Bouattia drew further condemnation when she used her casting vote to strip Jewish students of their ability to elect their own representative.
Student leaders have gone so far as to write open letters expressing embarrassment and apologising to Jewish students for the actions of Bouattia and the NUS. The Union of Jewish Students has called for her resignation, as have other student groups including Oxford University Students’ Union. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into the Rise of Antisemitism in Britain strongly criticised her.
A two-month inquiry launched by NUS to ascertain whether Bouattia is an antisemite found that Bouattia made comments that “could be reasonably capable of being interpreted as antisemitic”, but recommended that no disciplinary action be taken. Instead, Professor Carol Baxter, the NHS’s former equality chief who authored the report, outrageously proposed that Bouattia should apologise instead and escape any further consequence.
We look forward to working with Shakira Martin. There is much to be done.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is a volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law. Everything that we do is done by people who volunteer their time, using donations contributed by members of the public. Join the fight against antisemitism by subscribing to our updates, volunteering, or donating.