U.K. Minister Apologizes to Israeli Ambassador After pro-Palestinian Protest

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Tzipi Hotovely at the Grand Plaza Hotel for at Likud meeting in Jerusalem in 2019.
Tzipi Hotovely at the Grand Plaza Hotel for at Likud meeting in Jerusalem in 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Tzipi Hotovely, was met with a large pro-Palestinian protest on Tuesday, after participating in an event at the London School of Economics, which the ambassador later said was "excellent."

The incident drew condemnations from British and Israeli officials after footage shared on social media shows Hotovely, a right-wing pro-settlement diplomat, rushed out of the venue by security guards as activists call out to her, "Aren't you ashamed?"

British Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi apologized to Hotovely, and called the incident "deeply disturbing."

Some members of parliament also expressed concern, with James Cleverly saying "we value open debate and peaceful protest. The aggressive and threatening behavior directed at the Israeli ambassador last night was unacceptable."

The protest organizers, a coalition of pro-Palestinian student groups from several universities in the British capital, said their opposition to Hotovely's attendance stemmed from her views on Palestinians.

Nevertheless, some comments on social media argued the demonstration was antisemitic, stressing its timing, which coincided with the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht – a claim dubbed "deeply offensive" by a Na'amod, a Jewish anti-occupation group.

The organization said in a tweet: "This was not a Jew-hunting mob but a protest against a far-right politician who advocates for permanent apartheid in Israel-Palestine. Any threats towards @TzipiHotovely are wrong, but comparing this incident to the violence and antisemitism of Kristallnacht is deeply offensive."

The LSE Student Union, which hosted the event titled "A New Era in the Middle East: Perspectives on Israel and Palestine" in collaboration with the university's Debate Society, released a statement prior acknowledging the controversy of bringing Hotovely to campus and the "distress" expressed by certain student groups.

They conveyed their commitment to equal debate saying "there must be an appropriate challenge of the views held by speakers,” while also acknowledging their inability to "guarantee complete safety."

An open letter written by the LSESU Palestine Society called to cancel the event rejecting the ambassador's visit and expressing their concern at normalizing a debate with an "avowed anti-Palestinian racist, Islamophobe, self-proclaimed 'religious right –winger.'"

The Israeli Embassy in London released a statement after the event saying they were "undeterred by extremists," and expressing their commitment to dialogue with all parts of British society.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Hotovely on Wednesday to express his support for her. "Tzipi is strong and will not allow any group of violent and antisemitic thugs intimidate her, as will all the other Israeli ambassadors in the world," Lapid said,

In a tweet, he tied "the de-legitimization of Israel" together with antisemitism, saying "our ambassadors are at the forefront of this struggle."

Hotovely later tweeted: "I’m thankful for all the support I have received from the British government, many friends and partners. I had an excellent event at #LSE and I will not be intimidated. I will continue to share the Israeli story and hold open dialogue with all parts of British society."

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