Sayf Abdeen is a Diversity, Inclusion and Overseas officer at London School of Economics (LSE) Law Society, and is one of the students who opposed the Israeli Ambassador’s right to speak at the school earlier in the month. He published an op-ed (“I demonstrated against Tzipi Hotovely’s appearance at LSE. This is why”) commending the students’ “refusal to legitimise the state violence and hatred Hotovely represents”, and praising what he referred to as their “non-violent” actions.
Abdeed of course ignored several aspects of the protest widely reported in the British media – which were condemned by British politicians from across the political spectrum – including attempts to swarm the ambassador’s vehicle after the event.
Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotolevy is rushed out of LSE by security this evening after students called for her to be deplatformed pic.twitter.com/axsxHxZOc2
— The Jewish Chronicle (@JewishChron) November 9, 2021
The “non-violent” protest against Hotovely also included online threats, with a Twitter post from an account called ‘LSEclasswar’ writing: “Whoever smashes the Ambassador car window (Lincoln’s Inn Field) gets pints. Let’s f**king frighten her.”
“Outside of the event, the crowd was addressed by Massoud Shadjereh, of the [Iranian] Islamic Human Rights Commission and organiser of the annual Quds Day demonstration.
He told protesters: “Zionism will never be a legitimate ideal in our spaces.”
He added: “This type of person is very dangerous, this is almost, almost the same concert as Holocaust denial, denying the atrocities that are taking place right now…”
The crowd chanted: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and cheered the Palestinian flag.”
Flags for the Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary group Kata’ib Hezbollah were waved behind Shadjareh as he spoke. Others noted the use of placards featuring a pro-Iran group called ‘Innovative Minds’.
Abdeed justifies their goal of preventing Hotovely from speaking, which he calls a “moral obligation”, by arguing that “if Hotovely was a British politician, saying she’d be on the ultra-right fringes would be an understatement”. However, it would be far more accurate to say that if Hotovely was a Palestinian politician, given her support for feminism and democracy, she’d be on the ultra-left fringes of Palestinian politics.
For instance, polls by Pew Global in 2015 showed that 89% of Palestinians think women must always “obey” their husband, whilst 45% think honour killings are sometimes justifiable. Further, forty percent of Palestinians think suicide bombing is sometimes justified.
The propaganda by the Indy columnist continues:
A former Israeli minister of settlement affairs, she pushed for the expansion of racially segregated settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory…
This is of course a blatant lie.
As much as Abdeed would like readers to view the conflict through the lens of race, there are no racial litmus tests determining who can reside in Israeli communities within the territories captured by Israel during the 1967 war. The only requirement is citizenship or (as in the case of east Jerusalem Palestinians) permanent residence. As with the oft-repeated lie of “Jews-only roads” in the West Bank, Palestinians like Abdeed are intent on obfuscating Palestinian terrorism, incitement and endemic antisemitism, by hoodwinking readers into believing that the Israeli-Palestinian issue is primarily fueled by Jewish racism.
Abdeed continues by writing that Hotovely has “incited against Palestinians”, claiming they are “thieves of history”.
However, the speech in question was during a 2017 Knesset debate in which Hotovely, then deputy foreign minister, was condemning UNESCO’s decision to declare Hebron and the Cave of the Patriarchs endangered “Palestinian heritage” sites – which was widely condemned for erasing the Jewish connection to the sites. Hotovely was arguing that those denying that historical connection were “thieves of history”.
Then, Abdeed writes that “Hotovely opposes marriage between Palestinians and Jews, and has invited the far right Jewish group Lehava to speak at the Israeli parliament”.
Hotovely, like many Jews both in Israel and the diaspora, oppose intermarriage as – given Jews’ minuscule numbers – it’s considered a threat to Jewish survival. Though a very contentious issue within the Jewish community, the suggestion that the desire to have Jews marry other Jews is racist is absurd. For instance, polls have shown that nearly two-thirds of Israeli Arabs wouldn’t marry someone from outside the religion. Are Arab Muslims racist for wanting their children to marry Muslims?
The specific accusation regarding Hotovely and Lehava is one that widely repeated, and extremely misleading.
In 2011, when Hotovely was an MK and on the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women, she hosted a hearing on the subject in honor of Jewish Identity Day. Whilst Lehava was one of many groups allowed to speak during the hearing, Hotovely has been clear that she strongly opposes the group’s extreme ideology. She was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle in April saying she “had no time for the sort of divisiveness shown by the extremist group” and that she “was not and never will be associated with Lehava and what it stands for”.
The distortions continue, as Abdeed alleges that, in her first speech as ambassador, “Hotovely denied the Nakba”.
During the 2020 speech in question, Hotovely never claimed that the Nakba (the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians during the 1948 Arab war against the nascent Jewish state) never happened. Rather, she took aim at the “lies” spread by the Nakba Day Movement, including their suggestion that Jews who emigrated to pre-state Israel were “colonialists” with no roots in the region, as well as their denial of the ethnic cleansing of 800,000 Jews from Arab lands.
Abdeed then alleges that Hotovely “has also pushed for the formal annexation of the West Bank while denying citizenship to its millions of Palestinians“. However, in the comments attributed to Hotovely, which date back over a decade, she was clear that in any such scenario, Palestinians would in fact be granted “full citizenship”.
Then, Abdeed finally levels with his readers about one thing: it isn’t only Hotovely he’s trying to ban, but any and all Israelis representing their country. “I did not attend this protest just because of Hotovely’s personal track record”, he wrote. “I protested because, to us, an Israeli ambassador represents an apartheid regime which dominates one people for the benefit of another”. He later clarifies any Israeli diplomat or politician is intrinsically “incompatible with our communities’ ideals, and should not be legitimised in British political spaces”.
It isn’t merely Israeli ‘officials’ that activists like Abdeed object to.
LSE Students for Justice in Palestine expressed support for the intimidation campaign against a Israeli woman named Adi Peled who was scheduled to appear at a Jewish Society Shabbat dinner focusing on Mizrachi Heritage Week. Warwick Action for Palestine objected not only to the Israeli speaker (who doesn’t work for Israel’s government), but also because the event was co-sponsored by the pro-Israel group Stand With Us, who they smeared as “Islamophobic and far-right”. The bullying and fear of violence forced the Shabbat event to be cancelled.
Please share and amplify.
We are in solidarity with @WarwickFoP 's opposition to a war criminal IOF speaker invited to speak and the islamophobic organisation "Stand With Us" presence on campus.
— LSE for Palestine (@LSEforPalestine) November 18, 2021
In fact, Peled spent her Israeli military service teaching at-risk youth at a boarding school. Yet, LSE Palestine insists that, because she served in the IDF, she’s, by definition, a “war criminal”.
Throughout his op-ed, Abdeed uses words like “freedom”, “justice” and “equality” to describe his motivations, when, in reality, the movement he supports represents the opposite of these values. The ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Overseas’ officer wants not only to no-platform Israelis – and only Israelis – within “British political spaces”, but seems intent on stifling the free exercise of Jewish life on campuses and throughout the country.
When you no-platform Zionism, you’re no-platforming Jews – which, by necessity, is the platforming of racism.