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December 13, 2016 6:46 am

Pro-BDS Candidate for Leadership of UK’s Jewish Student Umbrella Group Suffers Stinging Defeat in Presidential Election

avatar by Lea Speyer

Eran Cohen. Photo: Video Screenshot.

Eran Cohen. Photo: Video Screenshot.

An Israeli-born backer of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, who stood as a candidate in the election for president of the UK’s leading Jewish student group, suffered a stinging defeat on Sunday. 

University of York’s Eran Cohen — who, as The Algemeiner reported, has used social media to downplay Arab terrorism against his fellow countrymen — came in last out of three top candidates for the leadership of the Union of Jewish Students (UJS), garnering just 89 votes out of 1,049 — less than 12 percent of the total.

University of Nottingham’s Josh Holt won the election with 682 votes, and University College London’s Adam Schapira came in second, with 258. The results were announced during the annual UJS conference over the weekend. 

In a statement following the election, Holt said he was “happy and honored” to be given the chance to represent Jewish students in Britain.

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Cohen’s unapologetic criticism of Israel and promotion of BDS aroused concern among members of Britain’s Jewish community, who feared that his activism would have a negative impact on his ability to lead UJS. His candidacy also sparked discussion among Jewish students on how to incorporate voices that do not support Israel.

According to Holt, the election has “undeniably flagged issues within the current system, and I look forward to addressing these moving forward, focusing on our diversity as a strength, and the value of pride in our identity.”

Outgoing UJS president Josh Seitler said that just as “there is space for the religious Zionist who doesn’t want to divide Jerusalem or relinquish Judea and Samaria,” so, too, is there “room at the Friday night dinner table for the non-Zionist whose Jewish identity is spiritual and ambivalent about Israel. And there is a place for the internationalist opposed to all borders, nation states and by extension Zionism — and many more views in between.” 

In addition to the election of the new president, UJS delegates at the conference also rejected a motion to cut ties with the National Union of Students (NUS), despite overwhelming dissatisfaction from the Jewish community with its president, Malia Bouattia, who has been embroiled in an ongoing controversy over allegations of personal antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

The motion denounced Bouattia as having “done little to listen to Jewish students’ concerns or to reassure them that she has understood why they believed her rhetoric to be antisemitic.”

As The Algemeiner reported, the NUS president was sharply criticized in an October parliamentary report for continually dismissing and even undermining efforts to combat antisemitism on campus. The report spurred calls for her immediate resignation.

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