Academics and student leaders defend protest against Israeli ambassador at LSE
Dozens of academics, student leaders and activists from a number of UK universities have defended a demonstration held by students at the London School of Economics (LSE) that opposed the on-campus appearance of Israel's ambassador to the UK.
More than 130 people signed a statement defending the 9 November protest which saw Tzipi Hotovely leaving an LSE building with tight police protection as a group of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside.
Hotovely had attended a 90-minute lecture at the London university and taken audience questions before leaving on schedule, LSE said in a statement.
Still, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel blasted the protesters, with the latter writing on Twitter that she was "disgusted" by Hotovely's treatment.
London's Metropolitan Police said they attended the demonstration and made no arrests.
The signatories defended the right to protest and described Hotovely as "someone who holds violently racist anti-Palestinian views", as well as one who "has made her abhorrent, racist views on Palestinians and Arabs apparent".
"It is incredibly disturbing and shameful that leading politicians of both main political parties have resorted to baseless smears," read the statement.
The signatories included Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students; Ijlal Khalid, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies; and dozens of academics at leading UK universities.
Hotovely's appointment as ambassador to the UK courted controversy among British Jews last year, with nearly 2,000 signing a petition calling on the government to reject her appointment.
Later last year, Hotovely described the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war - known as the Nakba (catastrophe) in Arabic - as a "very popular Arab lie". The pro-Palestinian Jewish organisation Na'amond subsequently called her a "racist."
Meanwhile, in 2015, she rejected a two-state solution, saying: "This land is ours. All of it is ours. We did not come here to apologise for that."