Beaver

LSESU Debate Society event hosting Israeli ambassador stirs up controversy on campus

By Jocelyn Tsang

An LSESU Debate Society event hosting the Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, has attracted criticism from the LSESU Palestine Society and others.

In a statement released yesterday, the LSESU Palestine Society expressed their “unequivocal rejection” of the Debate Society’s event, titled “Israel’s Perspective: A New Era in the Middle East”. “We are outraged by both the invitation extended towards a figure with a track record of anti-Palestianian racism and war crimes, as well as the LSESU’s approval of this event in the first place,” the statement read.

“Any event that hosts a senior Israeli representative, let alone a politician actively involved in facilitating aparthied and justifying the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, as part of an ostensibly balanced and fair discussion on ‘Israel and Palestine’ is a non-starter. …It must be stressed that there are no ‘two sides’ to ongoing settler-colonialism, to apartheid, to ethnic cleansing, and to the occupation of Palestine.”

The statement asserted that the event contradicted a motion passed by the LSESU in June 2021 to “bind the SU to ‘commit to ensuring that the university is is free from discrimination and plays an active role in dismantling systems of oppression at home and abroad’, as well as ‘establish an apartheid-free zone that does not normalise relations with any regime of racism, oppression and discrimination’”. The motion “Should the LSE be apartheid-free?” was passed in the Union General Meeting on 17 June 2021. The Beaver notes that the motion commits the “LSESU to lobby LSE” on those grounds, and does not bind the SU in itself.

The statement also claimed that Tzipi Hotovely had previously said things that “amount[ed] to clear contraventions of LSE’s External Speakers Policy and Code of Practice on Free Speech that prevent the ‘expression of racial or religious hatred’”. The Code of Practice states that “activity may be deemed unlawful under a range of legislative provisions”, and  “examples … of unlawful activity include expression of racial hatred or religious hatred”. The code sets out that “the expression of views which are unpopular, controversial or provocative or which cause offence does not, if lawful, constitute grounds for the refusal or cancellation of an Event”. The External Speakers Policy is laid out by the LSESU.

The statement further read, “LSE must revoke their approval of this event and issue a formal apology for the distress and sense of violation that this has caused students on campus… we condemn the securitisation of the event via the Metropolitan Police and demand LSESU take steps to safeguard students from the islamophobic PREVENT agenda. The police have absolutely no place on our campus.”

The LSESU Palestine Society also published an open letter condemning the Israeli ambassador’s visit on their social media, signed by the LSESU Islamic and MENA Societies, who released similar statements today condemning the event. The open letter was also signed by Palestianian societies from other UK universities such as UCL, Lancaster and SOAS.

The event is hosted by the public debates arm of the Debate Society, and will be followed by a second event of the same series, where the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot will be hosted on campus a few days later, on 11 November.

The Debate Society’s Instagram post about the event with the Palestianian Ambassador was flooded with comments accusing the society of inviting a “war criminal”, while the comments were turned off under the post for the event with the Israeli Ambassador. An account with the username @shameonkarens commented: “Not surprised to learn that the President’s name is Karen. Shame on you Debate Committee for giving a platform to a war criminal.”

The Beaver understands that the members of the LSESU Debate Society committee have received threats from anonymous accounts. 

The LSESU Debate Society and the LSESU were not immediately available for comment.

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