UPDATE (as of 10th November 2021 4:30 p.m.): The LSESU Debate Society Event hosting the Palestinian Ambassador has been postponed until further notice. According to an Instagram post by the society, the Palestinian Mission requested to reschedule the event as the ambassador wanted to return to LSE, his alma mater, during a “healthier environment”. The debate society stated that it looked forward to re-hosting the event as soon as possible.
The protest against the LSESU Debate Society event hosting Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely has prompted criticism and backlash from government officials and news outlets nationwide.
A video capturing the ambassador exiting 32 Lincoln’s Inn, the event venue, amidst protesters booing and chanting slogans such as “shame on you” went viral on Twitter and was reported in news outlets including The Independent, Fox News, and the Times of Israel. MailOnline described the protesters as “thugs”. Harry Cole, political editor at The Sun, described the protest as “[s]hameful” and called for the government to put some protesters on a “watchlist”.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi described the protest footage as “deeply disturbing” and apologised to the Israeli ambassador. Home Secretary Priti Patel tweeted that she was “[d]isgusted by the treatment of the Israeli Ambassador at LSE” and that “[a]ntisemitism has no place in our universities or our country”. Police have the Home Secretary’s “full backing” to investigate the protest.
An Instagram post from the account LSE Class War encouraging protesters to smash her car window to “frighten” the ambassador also caught the attention of the media, as reported by MailOnline. The LSE Class War account has since been removed.
In response to the incident, Hotovely said, “We will not give in to thuggery and violence,” according to the Times of Israel.
Conservative MP James Cleverly tweeted that although peaceful protest was valued, the “aggressive and threatening behaviour directed at Israeli Ambassador” was “unacceptable”.
StandWithUs, a pro-Israel organisation against anti-Semitism, called the protesters “antisemitic” and “anti-free speech”.
In an official press release, the LSE for Palestine organisation said:
“As the event inside finished at around 7.30 pm, protesters split into two groups, making their presence known at both exits of the building … At around 8 pm, Hotovely finally exited the building, carrying flowers that she had been given by the university which welcomed her with open arms, while protesters made their presence and voices known. While Hotovely made a hasty exit, police physically assaulted students. Contrary to false reports, Hotovely did not ‘flee’ the university; students maintained a peaceful protest throughout the evening and it was the police who incited violence. At the beginning of the protest, we made our protest guidelines and safe space policy clear, stating that we would not tolerate speech, behaviour or displays that incited any sort of prejudice or discrimination.
“It is laughable to suggest that a figure with the ear of the government and the mainstream media as the ambassador to the UK can somehow be ‘cancelled’ or have her speech curtailed, especially as Palestinians face constant censorship and erasure by Israel and other complicit governments.”