This time last year, I sat on NUS Conference floor as Malia Bouattia was elected NUS President. This year, I was back at NUS Conference as Malia's re-election campaign fell.
The past year has seen an unstoppable tide of antisemitism from all corners of our movement. This was accompanied by consistent whitewashing, claims that context justifies racist comments, and a pervasive feeling that NUS viewed Jewish students not as constituents, but as nuisances.
We have been driven further and further away from NUS, and I understand many of my friends' support for disaffiliation referenda on campuses across the country.
I've been in the minority over the past year, and instead of giving up on a movement with so much potential, I've been campaigning for Jewish students to stay and fight, demanding recognition and respect. The Yes to NUS campaign at my university, Bristol, was nothing but isolating towards Jewish students, ignoring our issues and making no concessions on their sound bite that NUS was an anti-racist, anti-fascist movement. They made it clear that the leadership of NUS would not be discussed under any circumstances.
Recent NUS NEC meetings have irrationally supported antisemitic statements for the sake of factional arm-stronging. Coming into this conference, I was truly ready to give up on NUS. I had decided that if Malia were re-elected, the message this sent out loud and clear to Jewish students was that unless we conform to their agenda and change our Judaism to suit their politics, we would not be welcome.
But today, with the election of Izzy Lenga - along with several allies of Jewish students, including National President-elect Shakira Martin - the tide is changing in NUS. Izzy is the only Jewish student to stand for a full time officer position in NUS since Rachel Wenstone in 2014, and her record on fighting against antisemitism is unstoppable. I, along with other Jewish students have had a difficult three years of NUS Conferences characterised by bullying, online harassment and straight out antisemitism. For us, the election of a Jewish student is indescribable.
From now on, I am confident that NUS will no longer offer insincere apologies to Jewish students to bolster their out of touch political policies. From now on, NUS can transform to a movement that works with us, not just as lip service but because they genuinely care about us. From now on, I truly believe that NUS will stop shutting Jewish students out the room, but let us lead on antisemitism to revolutionise this movement.
Today proves that when we work hard, we can and we will win for Jewish students.
Izzy, mazel tov.