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Open letter: we’re a group of Jewish students and alumni and we say no to Hotovely on campus

To the Editor, and the LSE community at large,

As Jewish students and alumni of the LSE who are committed to Palestinian liberation and to the fight against antisemitism, we are deeply concerned about the event that took place on campus this week with Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, and about the conversations that have been generated in the aftermath of the protests.

First of all, we echo LSE Palestine Society’s condemnation of the decision by LSE Debating Society (with the backing of the Students’ Union) to legitimise Hotovely and her ideology by inviting her to speak at LSE, thus presenting Palestinian freedom as being a subject that is open for debate. Not only has Hotovely called the Nakba —  the displacement and dispossession of over 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 — ‘an Arab lie’, she has also invited Jewish supremacists into the Knesset, advocated for complete Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank without the Palestinians there receiving full citizenship rights, and publicly opposed intimate relationships between Jews and Arabs. Hotovely played an active role in the expansion of illegal settlements as the former Minister for Settlements in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and she has described Israeli human rights activists who campaign to end the occupation as ‘war criminals’. Put simply, she is one of the foremost advocates of apartheid in Israel-Palestine.

As such, we also condemn the way the mainstream Jewish media, as well as UK government officials such as the Home Secretary and Education Secretary, have immediately jumped to characterise the protests against Hotovely as antisemitic in nature. Analogies to Kristallnacht, for example, which saw more than 90 Jews murdered and 30,000 Jews deported to concentration camps, are deeply offensive to the Jewish victims of Nazi antisemitism and the Shoah, and bear no resemblance whatsoever to the events at LSE this week. Protesting against representatives of the Israeli state — be they Jewish or non-Jewish — is not antisemitic. Significant parts of the British Jewish community have been protesting against Hotovely since she was appointed as ambassador last year. So let’s be clear about why students protested Hotovely’s presence on campus: it was not because she is Jewish, but rather because she is the ambassador of a state that routinely flouts international law and is committing grave human rights violations against Palestinians on a daily basis.

Narratives which conflate criticism of the Israeli state with antisemitism are incredibly dangerous, serving to constrain the rights of Palestinians and their allies to speak out about their oppression while also harming our fight against the very real antisemitism that exists in our society. In the aftermath of the irresponsible claims by public figures and journalists accusing the protesters of antisemitism, several student organizers have been subject to racist abuse and threats online, which we unequivocally condemn. Senior politicians in government and opposition have also made calls for arrests and police action against protestors; we wholeheartedly reject these attempts by government figures to use Jewish students’ sense of insecurity as a pretext to expand the policing of student activists on campus.

We know that the last few days have been painful and fractious for much of the LSE community, including for Palestinian students who have had been made to feel unwelcome at their own university, and for Jewish students who have been left feeling unsettled and vulnerable. No student should feel unsafe on campus because of their religious, ethnic or national identity, and we are committed to the fight against all forms of racism and bigotry, both on campus and in wider society. The struggle against antisemitism and the struggle for Palestinian liberation are not mutually exclusive.

University campuses have the unique potential for bringing together different communities in solidarity with one another, and we know that it is only through this collective solidarity that we can achieve true liberation for Jews, for Palestinians and for all peoples.

Signed, 

Bo Jacobs Strom

Asher Kessler

Max Hammer

Damon Hotz

Mira Mattar

Rachida Benamar

Daniel Bernstein Vulkan

Ben Reiff

Micol Meghnagi

Jo Bluen

Alex Small

Rachel Richman

Dave Postles

Douglas Gerrard

Hannah Swirsky

Simon Korner

Antony Lerman

Shay Lari-Hosain

Maarya Rabbani

Naomi Cavanagh

Shoshana Lauter

Ros Edwards

Jonah Lipton

Matt Gothill

Idan Sasson

Amy Perlin

Zak Cebon

Samuel Barnett

Maïa Pal

Rachel Cohen

Anton Koninckx

Jacob Breslow

Samuel Harris

G. Paul Turner

Emma Hilton

Hannah Borai

Alana Lentin

Dorothy Macedo

Bob Storey

Marina Galanti

Mike Cushman

Ben Magarshack

Jacqueline Sands

You can sign the letter here

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