Politicians are lying about the Palestine student protest at LSE

Asa Winstanley

Middle East Monitor  /  November 13, 2021

This week, students at the London School of Economics (LSE) protested on campus to oppose a lecture by Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely. Their protest was not only entirely peaceful, but a righteous example of necessary anti-racist activism.

Hotovely is a particularly egregious example of Israeli racism. Her record is very well-known.

She is a far-right religious extremist who claims that God gave the “Land of Israel” (historical Palestine) to the Jews, and to the Jews alone. “The land is ours,” she once spat, “all of it is ours. We did not come here to apologize for that.”

She has also claimed that there is “no Palestinian people” and that the Nakba – Israel’s well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians – is a “popular Arab lie”. In 2017, she infamously attacked Palestinian lawmakers in Israel’s parliament, claiming that they have no history and that Palestinians are “thieves of history”. This is a very typical settler-colonial lie.

Personally recruited into the Likud Party more than a decade ago by Benjamin Netanyahu himself, Hotovely swiftly rose through the ranks. She was brought on board to appeal to Israel’s far-right religious settler constituency.

She has a long track record of promoting and supporting the interests of the West Bank’s worst Jewish extremists, and has used her various government positions to continue her anti-Palestinian activism.

She has boasted that during her tenure as deputy foreign minister under Netanyahu, she transformed the ministry into a bastion of the pro-settler hard-right. Describing this as a “revolution in the Foreign Affairs Ministry”, Hotovely has helped move the country towards outright annexation of remaining Palestinian land in the West Bank.

In a position characteristic of anti-miscegenation white racists the world over, Hotovely also opposes mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews, again using her government offices to promote the work of Jewish supremacist group, Lehava.

This extremist position has even led her to attack most Jews worldwide who do not live in Israel. “American Jews are losing it big time,” she spewed, “I see the numbers, I’m in the Foreign Ministry: 80 per cent of American Jews assimilate.”

She’s even gone so far as outright anti-Semitism against those Jews she considers her political enemies.

In 2019, she created a YouTube video to promote her election campaign in the Likud Party primaries. It included the typical anti-Semitic smear of Jews as greedy and only motivated by money. Jewish supporters of Palestinian rights in Hotovely’s video were attacked in grossly anti-Semitic terms. They were depicted as being paid agents of a Jewish conspiracy against Israel who, when punched out by Hotovely (depicted as a superhero), scream: “Oy vey! My German Euros!”

With such a poisonous political record, it’s no wonder that Palestinians, Jews and supporters of Palestinian equality came out in force on campus this week to oppose Hotovely and her presence at LSE.

She had ostensibly been invited by the LSE “Debate Society” – a generic-sounding group if ever there was one.

But having viewed some footage from the event itself – which took place in full, unfortunately – it was far more of a lecture than a “debate”. There was no outside speaker opposing Hotovely’s lies and racism. It was essentially a lecture of students by a known, far-right racist, with the imposing presence of Israeli secret police – the torturers of Shin Bet, known to act as Israel’s embassy security the world over – standing in front of the room.

Students told me that the Met Police guarding the event (to make sure that Hotovely could safely spread her poisonous racism without hindrance) actually assaulted protesters.

All of this shows just how insane this week’s mainstream political and journalistic discourse on the event has been.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was one of several government ministers to condemn the protesters, smearing them as anti-Semitic, and lying that they had been violent and “intimidated” Jewish people.

Ironically, of course, Patel’s deliberate and dishonest conflation of Israel – a violent, racist apartheid state roundly condemned by many Jews around the world – with “the Jewish community” was in itself a true example of existing anti-Semitism.

If you had somehow expected the Labour “opposition” to do any opposing on this front, then you would have been sadly disappointed.

Both Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lisa Nandy echoed Patel’s baseless smears. Nandy even called the protests “completely unacceptable”.

Almost unbelievably, Nandy was, until earlier this year, the leader of a group that claims to be the “Labour Friends of Palestine”. At this point, it would be far more honest and open if that group would just rename itself “Labour Enemies of Palestine”.

All this would be laughable if it were not so poisonous to our political culture in Britain. Government ministers, the main opposition party and the mainstream media have all now united in a witch hunt against vulnerable students – many of whom are Palestinians and Muslims.

Patel has even called for police to investigate, and the university will be under massive pressure from both the British and Israeli governments to persecute its own students.

A solidarity demonstration for students and staff from LSE and beyond has been called to be held on Thursday.

It’s vital that we do all we can to support the students.

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East