Beaver

The Israel-Palestine event protests: a timeline

By Aarti Malhotra and Aysha Sarah

Note: This story was published in The Beaver’s Issue #915 in November 2021.

6 Nov● LSESU Debate Society announces the event “A New Era in the Middle East” hosting Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors. 
● LSESU Palestine Society issues statement condemning the debate society event for inviting Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely: “We are outraged by both the invitation extended towards a figure with a track record of anti-Palestinian racism and war crimes, as well as LSESU’s approval of this event.” It also accuses LSESU of contradicting an SU motion passed in June where the SU promised to lobby LSE to “establish an apartheid-free zone that does not normalise relations with any regime of racism, oppression, and discrimination”.
● The statement is echoed by LSESU Islamic Society.
7 NovDecolonising LSE, LSESU Middle East and North Africa Society release statements condemning the event.
● Committee members of the LSESU Debate Society receive online threats from anonymous accounts.
8 Nov● LSESU Grimshaw Club releases a statement condemning the event.  
● LSE for Palestine announces protest and issues protest guidelines and safe space policy.
9 Nov● Responding to the criticism, the SU sabbatical officers issue a statement reaffirming their authorisation of the event while calling for additional safety measures. The statement has since been removed from the SU website.
● A crowd of more than two hundred students, journalists and volunteers from organisations such as the Islamic Human Rights Commission gather at 5 p.m. for the protest in front of Centre Building. They eventually move to outside 32 Lincoln’s Inn, the event venue. The protest is followed by a heavy police and security presence. 
● The event inside 32 Lincoln’s Inn begins at 6 p.m. as planned, where the Israeli ambassador gives a talk and answers questions from the audience. 
● A group of protesters remain outside 32 Lincoln’s Inn until 40 minutes after the event, shouting “shame on you” at the talk participants as they exit the building.
10 NovA video capturing the ambassador exiting 32 Lincoln’s Inn, the event venue, amidst protesters booing and chanting slogans goes viral on Twitter overnight, viewed 2.4 million times within a week.
● Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi describes the protest footage as “deeply disturbing” and apologises to the Israeli ambassador.
● Tzipi Hotovely tweets, “I had an excellent event at LSE and will not be intimidated.”
The Independent, Evening Standard, Times of Israel, BBC, and other media outlets publish stories about the protests. MailOnline calls protesters “thugs”.
● UK Home Secretary Priti Patel tweets she is “disgusted” by the treatment of Hotovely and adds that the police have her full support in investigating the incident: “Antisemitism has no place in our universities or our country.”
● Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Education Trust, added, ‘‘This is absolutely shocking. At a London university.’’
● LSESU sabbatical officers release a follow-up statement: ‘‘LSE students will not face any disciplinary action for exercising their right to peacefully protest.’’
● LSE for Palestine releases a statement addressing the protest: “Contrary to false reports, Hotovely did not ‘flee’ the university…we made our protest guidelines and safe space policy clear, stating we would not tolerate speech, behaviour or displays that incited any sort of prejudice or discrimination.”
● The LSESU Debate Society postpones event with the Palestinian Ambassador until further notice, stating that the Palestinian Mission requested to reschedule the event as the ambassador wanted to return to LSE in a “healthier environment”.
11 Nov● In an interview with the Daily Mail, Hotovely states she will not allow “radical groups to shape the discourse in academia’’.  
● LSESU Jewish Society clarifies position on letters being signed around campus by Jewish students: “JSoc is a welcoming and inclusive society for Jews with different beliefs…There is no political letter and there will be no political letter written by – or on behalf of – LSE Jewish Society.”
In an interview with the BBC, LSESU Debate Society Vice President claims protesters were not anti-Semitic and that politicians are “mischaracterising” the event from the short social media clip: “I was one metre away from the ambassador throughout the event and did not see any violence or threats… She had a few uncomfortable moments getting into her car because people were booing but that’s just freedom of speech.”
12 Nov● Decolonising LSE announces solidarity assembly: “We demand that the LSE issues a public statement affirming our students’ right to protest on campus without facing police investigation.”
● LSE UCU Branch Committee released a statement in response to the protest: ‘‘We reject attempts to smear student protests against a state or its representative as harassment or hate speech…Senior politicians have acted irresponsibly in making public accusations against students, and we are deeply concerned by suggestions that LSE will be reviewing its policies in response.’’
14 Nov● LSESU General Secretary Josie Stephens releases a statement on Instagram: 
‘‘…we [the sabbatical officers] were distraught by the distress, anguish and fear present within our community, and felt powerless in the face of misinformation and systemic racism…We also need to lobby LSE to offer more proactive support for students within marginalised groups and facilitate opportunities for an open dialogue between the directorate and students.’’
15 Nov● A group of Jewish LSE students and alumni publish an open letter in The Beaver expressing their commitment to “Palestinian liberation and to the fight against anti-semitism”: “Protesting against representatives of the Israeli state – be they Jewish or non-Jewish – is not antisemitic…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.”
18 Nov● At a solidarity assembly, students and staff members come in solidarity to express their right to freely express their views on campus.
● Students discuss the handling of the events at an LSESU-organised town hall. The sabbatical officers reflected on the events following the event and protest. They put an urgent emphasis on ensuring that students feel safe and marginalised voices are heard.

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