The first Muslim president of the National Union of Students has been defeated in an election by a student who recently went on a trip to Israel funded by the pro-Israel Union of Jewish Students.
Shakira Martin, the union’s current vice-president for further education, gained 402 of the 721 votes cast by delegates at the union’s annual conference in Brighton. Bouattia gained 272 votes and Tom Harwood got 35.
Bouattia has spoken out against the Prevent counter terrorism strategy which is being implemented in educational institutions. She has also spoken out against Israeli atrocities.
However, there has been a constant campaign against her in some sections of the media and by pro-Israel groups who accuse her of anti-semitism, charges she vehemently denies.
Martin, 28, describes herself as a “black, working class single mother” and pitched herself as a centrist and a pragmatist who could heal the wounds of the splintered NUS.
After her victory the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) spokesperson congratulated Martin on her win and said on the organisation’s Facebook page: “Shakira’s election demonstrates a rejection of the divisive rhetoric used by the current president, Malia Bouattia, whose past anti-Semitic comments have remained problematic for Jewish students for over a year.
“Following Shakira’s recent work with UJS, which included a trip to Poland ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day this year, we look forward to seeing her continue to prioritise the interests and welfare of Jewish students amongst all students as NUS National President. We wish her the very best in her new role.”
In October last year Bouattia was condemned by the Home Affairs Select Committee over a comment made in 2011 that Birmingham University had become a “Zionist outpost.” The committee also criticised remarks from a 2014 speech on “Gaza and the Palestinian revolution,” in which Bouattia was recorded as saying: “With mainstream Zionist-led media outlets … resistance is resented as an act of terrorism.”
Her supporters have accused critics of sexism and delivering misinformation, and say she has diversified the union and tackled hate crime.
During her conference speech Bouattia said that, as the child of refugees who had fled from the civil war in Algeria when she was seven, she had “learned at a young age what it means to make sacrifices for education”. She added: “I have been harassed, had death threats and been hounded for my beliefs, but my leadership has stayed determined, stayed resilient and stayed strong.”