By Jessica Pretorius
Tzipi Hotovely, the current ambassador of Israel to the UK who sparked outrage on campus in November when she spoke at a Debate Society event, spoke at the Cambridge Union on 8 February. Her arrival was met with a large demonstration, drawing parallels with the protests at LSE last November.
Prior to the event, an open letter expressing dismay had circulated on social media. It stated: ‘‘We condemn this invitation, and affirm that this far-right representative of an apartheid regime is not welcome at our university and in our city.” The open letter encouraged members of the Cambridge Union to boycott the event and join a demonstration outside the building. It has received over 1500 signatures as of this week.
Hotovely has been criticised for her links to far-right groups and in her past position as the Minister of Settlement Affairs. In November the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, tweeted that she was “disgusted” by the LSE demonstrations, and supported a full police investigation into the protest.
The Cambridge University Palestine Society (CUPS) stated in a press release: ‘‘Cambridge students have a long history of demonstrating against visits of representatives of imperialism and apartheid. They protested the visit of the US Ambassador in 1967 during the Vietnam War, picketed a visit from the apartheid South African ambassador in 1983 and demonstrated against the presence of previous Israeli ambassadors Daniel Taub and Mark Regev in 2014 and 2016.’’ The Cambridge Union argued that they are maintaining an “even-handed” and “pro-debate” approach, having hosted Hotovely’s counterpart, Husam Zomlot, last term.
The LSESU Palestine Society expressed that they stand in full solidarity with CUPS, reiterating their letter from November: “There is no room for such bigoted and racist rhetoric on our campuses. There is no room for the denial of Palestinian existence on our campuses. There is no room for colonial apologism on our campuses.” They also stated that “when we protest, we do so not simply against isolated and individual events across different university campuses, but in honour of a long history of Palestinian resistance… We must not stop protesting until we kick apartheid off campus until Palestine is free.”A second-year philosophy student told The Beaver: “Campuses are places of learning where ideas are shared and discussed. Regardless of what your view is, discussions that allow you to challenge a figure opposed to you is a valuable opportunity and is not equivalent to endorsing their views.”