Israel’s UK envoy defiant after student demo
Israel’s UK envoy defiant after student demo

LONDON – Israel’s ambassador to Britain said Wednesday she “will not be intimidated” following raucous protests outside a contentious London university students’ union debate she attended on Middle East peace.

Tzipi Hotovely faced loud jeers, boos and shouts of “shame on you” from demonstrators as she left the Tuesday evening event at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“I had an excellent event at #LSE and I will not be intimidated,” Hotovely said on Twitter.

“I will continue to share the Israeli story and hold open dialogue with all parts of British society.”

The students’ union debating society had faced a campus backlash over inviting the Israeli envoy, with student group LSE for Palestine arguing against it and organising the protests.

It accuses Hotovely — a hardliner from Israel’s right-wing Likud party and former minister in charge of its controversial Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank — of espousing hate speech and contributing “to the material oppression of Palestinians”.

The group said some attendees had walked out in solidarity at the start of the event.

After footage of the noisy heckling of Hotovely was shared online, UK interior minister Priti Patel said she was “disgusted by the treatment” and that “antisemitism has no place in our universities”.

“I will continue to do everything possible to keep the Jewish community safe from intimidation, harassment & abuse,” she added on social media.

“The police have my full backing in investigating this appalling incident.”

London’s Metropolitan Police said they attended the protest but made no arrests.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government has appeared eager to push back against the so-called “cancel culture”, particularly at universities.

Earlier this year ministers unveiled plans for new laws guaranteeing freedom of speech to counteract what they called “unacceptable silencing and censoring” on campuses.

As part of the plans, it is considering appointing a “free speech champion” to investigate possible breaches of the right to expression, while academics who lose their jobs in similar disputes may be able to claim compensation.

LSE said Tuesday’s debate lasted 90 minutes and Hotovely had spoken, taken audience questions and left on schedule, but that it would be “reviewing the processes around this event to inform future planning”.

“Free speech and freedom of expression underpins everything we do at LSE,” a spokesman said.

“Students, staff and visitors are strongly encouraged to discuss and debate the most pressing issues around the world, but this must be in a mutually respectful manner.”

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