Ambassador to UK Hotovely almost attacked by anti-Israel protester

Tzipi Hotovely was evacuated as pro-Palestinian activists harassed her after speaking to the debate team at a university.

Portrait of Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Tzipi Hotovely poses for a picture at her office in Jerusalem on February 19, 2020.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Portrait of Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Tzipi Hotovely poses for a picture at her office in Jerusalem on February 19, 2020.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Violent extremism will not stop Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely from telling Israel’s story, the embassy said on Wednesday, after she was evacuated from the London School of Economics (LSE) as students and other pro-Palestinian activists tried to attack her following a speaking engagement.

Video posted online shows Hotovely leaving the event on Tuesday night, with security guards leading her past the protest, when a man rushed at her. The guards pushed her into her car.

“We will not give in to bullying and violence,” Hotovely stated. “The State of Israel will send its representatives to every platform.”

Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely is seen speaking at the London School of Economics, on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. (credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY IN LONDON)Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely is seen speaking at the London School of Economics, on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. (credit: ISRAELI EMBASSY IN LONDON)

Hotovely said she was able to give her full talk for an hour and a half to an audience of 200 students “who wanted to hear Israel’s story in one of the leading universities in the world.”

The embassy’s spokesman Ohad Zemet characterized the discussion at LSE as “open and deep,” while a protest organized by the Palestinian Student Union and the Islamic Society took place outside, with police keeping order.

“Violence by extremist elements will not deter us, and the Embassy of Israel, as part of its diplomatic work, will continue to represent Israel and promote an open dialogue with people of all kinds in British society. The extremists will continue to protest outside, and the embassy will continue to talk to students inside,” Zemet stated.

Ahead of the event with Hotovely, an Instagram account called “LSE Class War” posted: “Whoever smashes the Ambassador [sic] car window... gets pints. Let’s f***in frighten her.”

The LSE Student Union’s Palestine Society argued that Hotovely violated the university’s external speakers policy, because she supports settlements and called the Palestinian-Israeli conflict a religious one, among other reasons. They also called her a racist.

Videos the society posted on Instagram showed activists shouting “shame on you” and “free, free Palestine,” calling Hotovely a war criminal.

Another video showed protesters chanting “no borders, no nations, no settler occupations.” It did not explain how one can support Palestinian statehood while opposing borders and nations.

UK Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi tweeted after the incident: “This is deeply disturbing, I am so sorry Ambassador Hotovely.”

Minister for the Middle East and North Africa James Cleverly tweeted: “We value open debate and peaceful protest. The aggressive and threatening behavior directed at Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely last night was unacceptable.”

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Most Israeli ambassadors to the UK and many pro-Israel speakers in recent years have been faced with protests outside their events.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, will be hosted by the LSE’s debating society next week, according to The Telegraph.

In response to the incident, a representative for LSE said the university rejects intimidation or threats of violence, and said that if students engaged in threats of violence, they would be disciplined.

“Free speech and freedom of expression underpins everything we do at LSE. 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. Intimidation or threats of violence are completely unacceptable,” said the university in a statement to the press, noting however that the SESU Debate Society event with Hotovely was conducted as scheduled.

“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,” the representative added.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.