LONDON, Wednesday, November 17, 2021 (WAFA) – A British society Tuesday expressed concern over UK Home Secretary’s statements following a student protest against an Israeli diplomat.
The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES), the largest national academic association in the UK and Europe focused on the study of the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to UK Home Secretary, Priti Patel, expressing concern over the latter’s statements following LSE student protests on 9 November against the Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely.
“It has recently come to our attention that on 9 November 2021, Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely delivered at talk at LSE. According to reports from BRISMES members at LSE as well as the event’s coverage in the media, the talk itself was uneventful—the ambassador addressed the students and then answered their questions as would be expected in academic settings. We understand that during the event a group of LSE students protested outside the venue and that when the ambassador exited the lecture hall and walked toward her car, these students booed her. Indeed, footage on social media shows a line of police officers cordoning off the protestors whilst the ambassador, holding a bouquet of flowers in her hands, is led swiftly by her bodyguard to the car before driving away.”
“The following day, you tweeted that you were “disgusted” by the treatment of the Israeli ambassador, and intimated that the protestors were antisemitic. You also called for a police investigation into the incident.”
While the association reiterated its opposition to anti-Semitism and all kinds of racism, it pointed that it did not see any evidence to support the claim that the protesters were ‘antisemitic’.
It added that peaceful protest was in line with the student’s right to exercise freedom of expression.
“It is the legal right of any citizen to exercise their freedom of expression and voice their opposition to the policies of any government. The target of that opposition will inevitably be the official representatives of that government. While we can appreciate that passing a crowd of booing students can be unsettling, the protesters at LSE on 9 November were voicing their opposition to the policies of the Israeli government by staging a peaceful protest against Ambassador Hotovely, who is the political representative of the Israeli government, on the occasion of her visit to the university.”
BRISMES stressed that Patel’s remarks suggesting that the LSE students who participated in a legal protest are antisemitic and her support for a police investigation into this legal protest “creates a chilling effect, one that undermines freedom of speech on university campuses and society more widely.”
“Such accusations threaten the existence of diverse viewpoints within the field of Middle East studies in the UK and are, more broadly, detrimental to our democratic civic life.”