Europe

‘We should not be intimidated!’ UK ambassador slams LSE mob following antisemitism threat

Freedom of speech is 'fundamental' says Neil Wigan

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Tzipi Hotovely, Israel’s woman in London, was harassed and chased down by a vicious mob of Palestinian flag-waving students on Tuesday screaming “shame”, “aren’t you ashamed” and anti-Israel tropes after she gave a lecture to students about the role of her country in the Middle East.

Grim footage shows Ms Hotovely being ushered into a car by her security detail as a braying mob ambushed her, forcing a police intervention.

But speaking to Jonny Gould’s Jewish State podcast, Neil Wigan, the UK’s ambassador to Israel, said people should not be “intimidated” on university campuses simply because of their beliefs.

He hammered: “Freedom of speech is absolutely fundamental and people should not be intimidated in this way.

“Ambassador Hotovely is clear that she will carry on engaging with British students going to universities.”

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Mr Wigan stressed that Ms Hotovely believes continued conversations are “vital” amid diminishing debate about Israel on university campuses across the UK.  

The ambassador also went on to acknowledge that while Britain has a “huge tradition” of freedom to protest, it also has a proud grounding in freedom of speech.

He noted however that freedom of speech must be coupled with freedom from intimidation of having a certain view.

Mr Wigan went on to demand universities should be places where ideas can be exchanged and debated, not chased out.

Tzipi Hotovely: Expert reacts to scenes at LSE university

While he slammed British campuses should not be where intimidation by “very small groups of people” stifle debate and discussion but instead be open to all viewpoints. 

He added how his department in Israel, alongside UK government ministers agree such attitudes on UK campuses are “entirely wrong” and must be tackled.

Prior to the incident, Class War, a left-wing student group behind the protest posted on Instagram “whoever smashes the Ambassador car window gets pints” and encouraged the mob to “storm building”.

An LSE spokesman said: “Free speech and freedom of expression underpins everything we do at LSE. Intimidation or threats of violence are completely unacceptable.” The London School of Economics is investigating the incident.

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Writing in the Daily Express following the incident, Ms Hotovely said: “It is clear that the crowds who gathered to shout outside LSE did not seek discourse.

“They sought to achieve their will by violent means and the suppression of alternative voices.”

While Jewish Chronicle editor and Daily Express columnist Stephen Pollard noted how the incident had also taken place on the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht, a pogrom against Jews between November 9-10, 1938, across Nazi Germany which saw paramilitary soldiers murder an estimated 91 people and smash up businesses, homes and Synagogues.

The comments come as a report by The Times newspaper on Monday revealed antisemitic abuse on university campuses has risen by 59 percent in one year, with 111 antisemitic incidents recorded at British universities in 2020.

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