Israeli ambassador’s Cambridge talk disrupted as students stage sit-in

Students protest against Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely speaking at the Cambridge Union (Areeb Ullah - MEE)

Areeb Ullah

Middle East Eye  /  February 8, 2022

Tzipi Hotovely has previously described the Nakba as an ‘Arab lie’ and opposed Palestinian claims to the West Bank.

Holding Palestine flags and chanting “free Palestine”, more than 100 students at Cambridge University rallied against Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Tzipi Hotovely, speaking at the Cambridge Union on Tuesday. 

Hotovely, who served as a settlement minister under former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke at the Cambridge Union as protests raged outside against the ambassador. 

The union, a private members’ club that attendees have to pay for, hosted the event despite criticism from an array of student groups. 

Protesters stood outside the union building, where attendees were lining up. Organizers banned attendees from bringing bags into the event and prohibited them from recording the talk.  

When the event began, protesters moved to the back of the building, where the ambassador’s convoy was parked, and blocked the entrance to the car park. 

Protesters brought drums and placards as they shouted slogans via a sound speaker such as “free Palestine” and “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.  

Sources inside the union who attended the talk told Middle East Eye that Hotovely’s speech was cut short due to the noise outside from the protests. 

Protesters then staged a sit-in and blocked the entrance to the car park where the Israeli ambassador’s convoy was parked, as police armed with tasers attempted to clear the protest. 

Opposition

Organizers of the protest eventually relented and broke their sit-in after being told that the protest successfully disrupted the ambassador’s speech. 

Hotovely was later shielded by an umbrella and bundled into her car as protestors remained outside chanting “shame on you” and “Free Palestine.”

A Cambridge University Palestine Society spokesperson, who wished to remain anonymous, said the protest was organized in opposition to the “system” Hotovely represents. 

“Hotovely represents and upholds a state apparatus which multiple organizations have named as committing crimes against humanity and apartheid,” the spokesperson told MEE

“We don’t think that anyone that represents a state engaging in illegal practices and abuse of human rights should be given a platform in our city and university.

“This protest is not only about condemning Hotovely as an individual and what she has said but rejecting the practices she engages in and represents, such as rallying settlers to be violent to Palestinians and engage in illegal practices and abuse of human rights.”

‘Jewish solidarity’

Chaya Kasif, a Jewish student at Cambridge University, also attended Tuesday’s pro-Palestine protest against Hotovely. 

Holding a placard that said: “Jewish solidarity from Gadigal [in Australia] to Gaza”, Kasif described her presence at the protest as an opportunity to show support with Palestinians.

“A lot of Jewish people are too scared to come out and show their face, so as someone who isn’t afraid, I’ll be representative of other Jews who because of personal or family reasons can’t show their support publicly with Palestine,” Kasif told MEE

Hotovely’s speech comes after Amnesty International released a long-awaited report that accused Israel of practicing apartheid in the Palestinian territories and Israel.

Last year, hundreds of students protested against Hotovely’s presence at the London School of Economics, where she delivered a lecture on the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

Hotovely made national headlines when footage of her being rushed into her car as student activists protested against her presence on campus was posted online. 

The ambassador accused the students of antisemitism, but students hit back and said their protest was not discriminatory.

Since becoming Israel’s ambassador to Britain, Hotovely has courted controversy. 

In 2020, Hotovely claimed that the Nakba, the mass dispossession and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes during the founding of Israel, was an “Arab lie” during an event hosted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

She has also opposed any Palestinian claim to the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem, supported the expansion of Jewish settlements and opposed the intermarriage of Jews and Palestinians. 

Areeb Ullah is a journalist for Middle East Eye