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Israel's ambassador to UK bundled away from LSE amid pro-Palestine protests

Tzipi Hotovely rushed off from university in her car after pro-Palestine students voiced their anger at her appearance
Hotovely is a hardline supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements, and her appointment as ambassador to the UK last year caused controversy (AFP)

Israel's ambassador to the UK was evacuated from the London School of Economics (LSE) on Tuesday, as pro-Palestine students voiced their anger at her appearance.

Footage on Twitter showed Tzipi Hotovely, clutching a bouquet of flowers, being bundled into her car by security guards as students chanted: "Shame on you." At least one protester tried to rush towards her.

Hotovely spoke at an event hosted by the university's student debating society as part of a series of talks entitled "A New Era in the Middle East".

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, had been due to attend a follow-up event on 11 November, but has now pulled out.

The ambassador's address lasted around 90 minutes, and "attracted some protest outside," according to the LSE. Hotovely then took questions before "leaving on schedule".

An LSE spokesman said: "Free speech and freedom of expression underpins everything we do at LSE.

"Intimidation or threats of violence are completely unacceptable.

"We are aware of some threats of violence made on social media around this event. Any LSE students identified as being involved in making such threats will face disciplinary action."

'Religious right-winger'

Hotovely is a hardline supporter of Israel’s illegal settlements and has described herself as “a religious right-winger". She has opposed interfaith marriages in Israel and is a staunch opponent of a Palestinian state.

The LSE Student Union's Palestine Society said that Hotovely's appearance violated the university's external speakers policy because she supports settlements and has called the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a religious one, among other reasons. The society also described her as "a racist".

A column in the Jewish Chronicle criticised the protesters - described as a "Jew hunting mob" - for their actions which came on the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht. Na'amod, a British Jewish anti-occupation group, said the comparison was "deeply offensive".

Priti Patel, the UK home secretary, said she had been in touch with the ambassador and had given her support to a police investigation of the protests.

Patel tweeted that she was “disgusted” by the treatment of Hotovely and that she would continue to do everything possible “to keep the Jewish community safe from intimidation, harassment and abuse”. 

Speaking to Talk Radio on Thursday, Hotovely said she "was very happy that the British government was so supportive" and described the incident as "a modern version of antisemitism".

Hotovely's appointment as ambassador to the UK last year caused controversy - with almost 2,000 British Jews signing a petition organised by Na'amod calling on the UK government to reject the appointment.

“Hotovely has an appalling record of racist and inflammatory behaviour from throughout her political career,” the petition read.

“As British Jews we are clear: Tzipi Hotovely’s values and politics have no place in the UK. 

"It is crucial that the UK government sends a message that her views are unacceptable, and rejects her nomination as ambassador.”

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In December 2020, Hotovely appeared at an online event hosted by the Board of Deputies (BoD), the UK's main Jewish community organisation, where she 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".

In 2019, following the release of a political manifesto by the BoD, in which they expressed support for a Palestinian state, Hotovely criticised the group, saying "an organisation that supports the establishment of a Palestinian state is clearly working against Israeli interests".

In a 2015 speech on her appointment as deputy foreign minister, 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."