UK government attacks Palestine student protesters

Protesters with a Palestinian flag facing police

The London School of Economics saw protests against Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely.

LSE For Palestine

Students at the London School of Economics protested against a talk by Israel’s far-right ambassador to the UK on Tuesday.

Tzipi Hotovely spoke on campus at the apparent invitation of the LSE Debate Society.

But 18 other student groups had signed an open letter expressing their outrage at the event. The students said Hotovely’s racism was in clear contravention of LSE policies on external speakers.

“There is no room for such bigoted and racist rhetoric on our LSE campus. There is no room for the denial of Palestinian existence on our LSE campus. There is no room for colonial apologism on our LSE campus,” the open letter read.

In a statement sent to The Electronic Intifada, student group LSE For Palestine thanked protesters for turning out against the “shameful” event.

Hotovely has “repeatedly espoused hate speech, contributed to the material oppression of Palestinians by planning and permitting illegal settlements in the West Bank,” they said.

Describing the night as “a tremendous demonstration of solidarity with Palestine” the group said protesters had gathered outside the building where Hotovely’s lecture took place.

They said they chanted “Free Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Hotovely, who arrived in the UK last year, is an extremist even by Israeli standards.

She has claimed that there is “no Palestinian people” and last year described the Nakba – the well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians in order to establish Israel – as “a popular Arab lie.”

In May, Hotovely was the star speaker at a demonstration outside the embassy in support of Israel’s latest war against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip. Also in attendance was far-right activist Tommy Robinson, as well as Israel lobbyist and former Labour lawmaker Joan Ryan.

LSE For Palestine said in its statement that an activist had told protesters: “While Hotovely may have the platform and power as a government official, we students also have the power to be change-makers. This university belongs to us.”

The group said that “students maintained a peaceful protest throughout the evening” and that several students had walked out of the event in protest at Hotovely’s racism.

Conservative government ministers, the Labour “opposition” and the Israel lobby have all attacked the protesters and falsely portrayed them as violent anti-Semites.

Home affairs minister Priti Patel said on Twitter she had been in touch with Hotovely to support her and told the police to investigate.

She condemned “intimidation, harassment and abuse” against “the Jewish community” despite there being no evidence of such a thing taking place whatsoever.

Patel was in 2017 forced to resign from a previous ministerial role after being caught having secret meetings with Israeli ministers organized by UK pro-Israel lobbyists, in violation of government rules.

Former Conservative minister Alan Duncan earlier this year accused her of being “compromised” and said her relationship with Israel was an example of the country’s “disgusting interference in our public life.”

Hotovely posted on Twitter thanking the government for its support.

Labour’s foreign affairs spokesperson Lisa Nandy – a known enemy of Palestinian rights – echoed Patel’s baseless smears.

Stephen Pollard, the editor of leading anti-Palestinian newspaper The Jewish Chronicle outrageously compared the peaceful student protesters to Nazis.

Ironically, Pollard has nothing to say when Israel – the apartheid state he loves so much – trains and arms real life neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

Video posted online from Tuesday night shows Hotovely making a swift exit to avoid protesters after her talk. But she was heavily protected by both British police and Israeli embassy security personnel.

All sources agreed that she had completed her lecture to students.

Some Twitter users described her as “fleeing” the university afterwards.

But LSE For Palestine disputed that characterization. They also said that police had physically assaulted students.

“It is laughable to suggest that a figure with the ear of the government and the mainstream media [such] as the ambassador to the UK can somehow be ‘canceled’ or have her speech curtailed,” they said.

“Palestinians face constant censorship and erasure by Israel and other complicit governments,” the group stated.

Video footage from the Zoom stream of the event seen by The Electronic Intifada suggests it was not so much a “debate” as a lecture by Hotovely, with no opposing outside speaker to challenge her.

The LSE Debate Society said in a statement to The Electronic Intifada that students had had “the opportunity to ask questions and challenge the speaker for nearly an hour.”

Society vice president Abhijith Subramanian said that “we respect and affirm the right of people to protest at our events but condemn all forms of threats and aggression.”

Asked repeatedly to clarify what “threats and aggression” they had received, Subramanian did not answer.

Advertising the event on Facebook, the society had gushed that it was “honored to host Her Excellency Tzipi Hotovely” to discuss “a peaceful Middle East.”

In a second post addressing student opposition on the eve of the event, the society claimed it wanted to “encourage discourse” about the Middle East and promote a “diversity of opinions.”

But, ironically, the society had closed comments on the same Facebook post, calling into question its commitment to “debate.”

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I consider myself to be a well educated well read person with no particular political affiliations but I am struggling to understand why and how the lobby groups of a foreign state are able to hold such power within the political system of the UK. Who allowed them this power and why are they kowtowed to by ALL mainstream political parties ( and some 'not so mainstream')? Why is there an over-exaggerated fear of being called anti-semitic for calling into question the actions of a foreign state, namely Israel? Can the same be held true for any other foreign state? Why this preferential treatment, often to the detriment of open, critical discourse? I really do not understand.

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I concur with the comments by Jerry Black and add the depressing irony that a debating society would bring in a hate-mongering government official to speak unchallenged. Where was the countering voice, oh you lovers of free speech? Selective, are we?

"Video footage from the Zoom stream of the event seen by The Electronic Intifada suggests it was not so much a “debate” as a lecture by Hotovely, with no opposing outside speaker to challenge her."

I have tried to locate the zoom livestream. Can anyone help?

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The appeal to the right of free speech is a defence of universalism: free speech must be free for all. It falls as vomit from the mouths of Ian Austin, Lisa Nandy and all those within Labour who did all they could to curtail Corbyn's right to express his ideas. There is a hypocritical call on the universal values we stand for when it is convenient for the defenders of wealth and power, but a swift retreat once it is Palestinian rights which are being defended or the corruption of the elites attacked. Corbyn was recently prohibited by the Mayor of London from speaking at a climate change rally, on pain of insurance being denied and the rally cancelled. Where was the outrage from Nandy? Where the calls for free speech from Patel? This is not a matter of the rightness or otherwise of Corbyn's ideas; it is the question of freedom of speech. Nandy has no belief in it. She fully supports the current gagging of Labour members and the wholesale expulsion of people who disagree with the leadership. She hasn't once defended the rights of those people to have their voices heard. Like all the leaders of Labour she is comfortable with a denial of her own party's rules and breaches of the law. Chris Williamson was hounded from the party for saying Labour should not apologise for its long record of standing up to racism. Did Nandy gnash her teeth? It is always the same: complaisance towards the rich and powerful, disdain for the common folk; the pretence of democracy; hiding behind apparent support for universal rights. But the test is simple: who profits? Who rules? Who gets it in the neck? The Palestinians get it in the neck while Nandy give unflinching support to Israel. She pays lip service to 2-States but does nothing to make it happen. Let's be plain: Hotovely is a fascist. Fascists should be faced down, always, everywhere. The real attack on free speech is the suggestion the students should have given her a free ride. Not free speech, cowardice. She's a fascist.

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As another commenter lamented, there doesn't seem to be an accessible online video of Hotovely's LSE lecture. But in searching her recent history, I paused to view this rant delivered in the Knesset, representative of her views as well as of her arrogant and abusive manner.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

Yes, she actually claims sovereignty stemming from an imaginary real estate transaction four thousand years ago. She then goes on to display a book of empty pages which she bluntly declares represents the entire history of the Palestinians. If telling people to their faces that they're nothing, that they don't exist, have no past worth recording and deserve only the state's contempt isn't evidence of a genocidal perspective, then frankly I don't know what it would take to make the point more clearly. When a figure of this type is invited to address an on-campus student group, it's done in the full knowledge that anti-racist protests will accompany the event. This was a calculated maneuver emanating from the embassy and aimed at presenting Israel once again as a victim of bigoted opposition. The subsequent sight of her fleeing a non-existent mob while being shepherded by a phalanx of security guards recalled scenes of Ruth Smeeth and others marching under the banner of victimhood during the "antisemitism crisis" within the British Labour Party- which was the precise intent.

Ambassador Hotovely makes Mark Regev, her baleful predecessor, look like Edward Said.

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Israel playing the victim again - its atrocious genocidal crimes were represeted in tne uk by its rancid racist ap artheid supporting 'ambassador' who faced a peaceful protest by lse students.
Israel expects Palestinian children to face lethal bullets, teargas, torture and imprisonment for no crimes, and starts squealing when it faces harsh words against its crimes against humanity which are well documented.
UK government reps fall in behind Israel,bleating about free speech.
Calling out reps of the genocidal Israeli government is to be applauded - shame on those who facilitate and help to spread the poisonous Israeli racism here.

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London.

At The Electronic Intifada he is associate editor and co-host of our podcast.