A mob waving flags and chanting slogans hounds a Jewish leader, forcing her to be bundled into a car and driven off for her own safety. These were scenes that might have been expected on 9 November 1938, when the ‘Kristallnacht’ pogroms raged across Nazi Germany, marking the beginning of the Holocaust. Instead, they took place 83 years later, on 9 November 2021, outside that august institution, the London School of Economics, in the heart of the British capital. The recent BBC series Ridley Road smugly suggested that antisemitism in this country was confined to decades past; real life is far more worrying.
Antisemitic, you say? That’s a bit strong. The baying crowd that surged around Israeli ambassador Tzipi Hotovely last night, forcing her from the building under the protection of nervy security guards, would hardly think of themselves as such. They were pro-Palestine university students, fighting ‘settler colonialism’ and ‘Israeli apartheid’. In their minds, they were simply supporting the oppressed, sticking up for the underdog.
— The Jewish Chronicle (@JewishChron) November 9, 2021
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
But look a little closer and you’ll see what I mean. Among the Palestine flags and placards were other, less easily recognisable banners that revealed a more worrying undercurrent: those of groups like Kata’ib Hezbollah, a radical Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary group funded by – you guessed it – Iran. (You might recall its leader, Any Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was vaporised by an American missile strike in Baghdad last year, alongside his more famous colleague Qasem Soleimani.)
Some of the placards also featured a group called Innovative Minds, a pro-Iran organisation that has carried at least one tribute to a suicide bomber on its website. An article it published referred to a killer who murdered 19 Israelis outside a nightclub as a 'martyr'. Another piece claimed that Israel had no right to exist and should be 'dismantled'. Back in 2016, as the Labour antisemitism scandal raged, John McDonnell caused outrage when he was found to have linked to the group on his blog.
Take a step back, and it’s very clear what’s happening. Students, convinced in the righteousness of their cause, are being utilised by more sinister forces to further the agenda of Iran and its sympathisers. When LSE students chant – as they did last night – 'from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free', they might not mean it in the spirit of Jew-hatred. Sure, it implies the obliteration of Israel. But perhaps they would want it replaced by a binational state that exchanges a Jewish character for a multi-ethnic one. (Jews living as minorities in multiethnic societies, with no national state as a refuge? What could possibly go wrong?). From the point of view of Tehran, however, there is no mistaking the genocidal drive behind the 'Palestine will be free' slogan.
Watch videos of the shameful scenes of the ambassador being hurried out of LSE last night, and the panic among the security guards is obvious. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of the attempted assassination of Shlomo Argov, the Israeli ambassador, in London. He was shot in the head and permanently paralysed; the attack triggered the Lebanon war, the repercussions of which are still being felt today, including in Britain.
Given the dominance of 'woke' culture among the younger generation, these kids may end up being the leaders of tomorrow. There is too much at stake to sit back and hope they grow out of it.