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UK: media and politicians ‘misled public’ with support for far-right Israeli ambassador   

December 20, 2021 at 3:03 pm

Scores of students came out to protest against the LSE Debate Society hosting Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Tzipi Hotovely, on campus in London on 9 November 2021 [@LSEforPalestine/Twitter]

The mainstream media in Britain is accused of misleading the public over its reports on last month’s student protest against extreme right-wing Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely.

Footage of the 42-year-old leaving an event at which she spoke at the London School of Economics (LSE), triggered a torrent of anger against the student protestors by the right-wing media, government ministers and opposition politicians. There were also allegations of “anti-Semitism” and “attack on free speech”.

“I am so sorry Ambassador Hotovely,” tweeted Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi, who described her exit from the LSE as “deeply disturbing”. Zahawi’s remarks and the 40-second video had the desired effect. At one point “#Kristallnacht”, a reference to a brutal anti-Jewish pogrom in Nazi Germany, began trending on Twitter.

Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy, fuelled the hysteria. “The appalling treatment of Israeli Ambassador @TzipiHotovely is completely unacceptable,” she tweeted. “There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and any attempt to silence or intimidate those we disagree with should never be tolerated.”

Anti-Palestinian newspaper the Jewish Chronicle published an article with a sensational headline declaring the protestors to be “a Jew hunting mob [sic]“.

However, the management of the LSE and the Metropolitan Police have confirmed what many were saying at the time: the press reports and the politicians’ statements about the student protest against Hotovely were wildly inaccurate. The fact is that Hotovely gave her speech at the LSE and was not prevented from doing so.

READ: Politicians are lying about the Palestine student protest at LSE

More than 200 staff wrote to the LSE seeking reassurance that freedom of expression and the right to protest are protected on campus. “We saw no evidence whatsoever of protestors having broken the law at last week’s event and no further action is being considered,” responded the LSE management. “The Metropolitan Police confirmed everyone went home safely without incident or arrest. All members of our LSE community have a lawful right to protest.”

The letter from the LSE management stressed that free speech and freedom of expression “underpin everything” that is done at the university. “Our School is a place where staff, students and visitors are strongly encouraged to discuss, challenge and effect change through education practices, academic research and rigorous debate. This must always be the case and is something we as LSE’s School Management Committee are deeply committed to facilitating and protecting, at all levels.”

Jewish Voice for Labour offered support to the protestors. “The attacks on student political activity are a part of a wider campaign to silence criticism of Israel’s Apartheid regime,” said the organisation. “This is, in turn, only part of the assault on freedom of speech, academic freedom and freedom of association on issues that dominant interests would rather were not the subject of public debate and interest.”

Earlier this month, pro-Palestine campaigners called on the charity regulator, the Charity Commission, to launch an urgent investigation into the activities of a pro-Zionist lobby group after it falsely accused LSE student demonstrators of extremism, racism and intimidation.