Middle East Monitor / December 24, 2021
I wrote in this column last month condemning the feigned national outrage among the political class and corporate media elite against students who had protested against the Israeli ambassador.
News this week confirmed that I was right to say students had done nothing wrong. The university itself has now confirmed this.
Tzipi Hotovely is an arch Israeli racist. She is an outright Jewish supremacist who openly demands Palestinian villages in the West Bank be destroyed to make way for Israeli settlements. For decades she’s been a right-wing settler activist, later recruited into the Likud party personally by Benjamin Netanyahu himself to shore up their hard-core West Bank settler vote.
She claims there is no such thing as Palestinians, that the Nakba (Israel’s well-documented 1948 expulsion of 800,000 Palestinians) is a “popular Arab lie” and even once extolled the virtues of a new Israeli invasion of Jordan and Syria.
In any civilized country (unlike in ours) Hotovely would be persona non grata. Instead, upon her arrival in this country last year she was welcomed with open arms by both the Tory government and the Labour “opposition”.
But many students on Britain’s campuses disagreed with this hypocrisy, and so decided to hold a protest against her presence at the London School of Economics (LSE) one-day last month. She had invited herself to harangue students in the so-called “debate” society, in a one-sided lecture about the virtues of Israeli racism.
Students protested against her presence legally, loudly and peacefully.
There was no legitimate reason whatsoever for the subsequent demand by Home Secretary Priti Patel for the police to investigate them. This was pure intimidation by a racist government and a racist minister – one who (according to even a former Tory government minister) is deeply “compromised” by Israel and its lobby.
To add insult to injury, Keir Starmer’s Labour “opposition” also condemned the protesters, with Starmer claiming – falsely and without evidence – that they been guilty of “intimidation and threats of violence.”
Labour’s then foreign affairs spokesperson Lisa Nandy also echoed Patel’s baseless smears against the protesters. Unsurprising from the same person who calls herself a Zionist. What a bad joke it is that Nandy until July last year led the group that has the gall to call itself “Labour Friends of Palestine”.
Labour Enemies of Palestine would be more accurate title.
But the good news that came this week was that the university itself – London School of Economics – has exonerated the students (albeit reluctantly).
We see no evidence whatsoever of protestors having broken the law at last week’s event and no further action is being considered, university management wrote.
Their statement came in a letter to more than 200 LSE staff who had written backing up the students and complaining about the university’s refusal to make a public statement backing their right to free speech.
Both the original letter from the academics and management’s reply were written last month. But they were only posted online last week by left-wing activist group Jewish Voice for Labour after the university refused to make its statement public.
It’s shameful that a leading British university is too cowed and intimated by political pressure to make a simple statement backing up their students’ right to free speech.
It’s even more shameful that the university at times appeared to be backing the smears and lies targeting the students – baselessly – as “anti-Semitic” and violent.
As the academics wrote: “We are seriously concerned that LSE’s statements to date can be read to imply that students have been guilty of violence and intimidation, and to imply that a police investigation may indeed be the appropriate response. We are worried about the chilling effect on freedom of expression, as well as the way that Arab, Muslim, Palestinian and minority students may face racial discrimination in this context.”
Meanwhile, although the university has now exonerated the student protesters, in many respects the damage is done. The chilling effect is in place: next time students on campus want to protest against Israel’s racist ambassador, will they think twice about the backlash? It’s certainly possible.
Then again, these things go both ways. Thanks to the brave students at LSE, Tzipi Hotovely will certainly now have to think again about the bad publicity her presence will invoke next time she wants to hold a lecture on campus at a British university.
Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East