Oxford Union president hit with 'discrimination' allegations for inviting Israeli ambassador to speak

A petition accused Charlie Mackintosh of 'conspiring with foreign agents to promote an apartheid state’  


Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on January 11, 2017. / AFP / MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images)

The president of the Oxford Union has been accused of “deliberately conspiring with foreign agents” after hosting a debate that included the Israeli Ambassador to the UK as a guest.

Thursday's members-only event at the historic debating society, titled The Abraham Accords: Prospects for Regional Peace and Prosperity, billed Tzipi Hotovely and her Bahraini and Emirati counterparts as speakers.

Ahead of the event, fellow Oxford student Hamzah Mahomed released a petition urging a no confidence motion in Oxford Union President Charlie Mackintosh, on the basis that the event had been discriminatory. 

Such a petition must receive 250 signatures within 48 hours to prompt a vote. The JC understands that the campaign’s requisition is invalid. 

Mr Mahomed also claimed that “Israeli security conspired to harass members of colour and pro-Palestinian members” during a June 2022 Oxford Union event with Ambassador Hotovely.

“Mr Mackintosh facilitated a severe threat to the safety and privacy of Oxford Union members,” after they were photographed and videoed without consent “and in some cases manhandled," he wrote.

He said Mr Mackintosh “did not mention the state murder of Shireen Abu Akleh” in his questioning.

Last year, the IDF admitted that the Al-Jazeera journalist was shot by an Israeli soldier while they were under fire from Palestinian militants, and said it was “very, very sorry for this tragic death”.

Mr Mahomed also accused Mr Mackintosh of failing to “uphold members' expectations for freedom of speech and deliberately conspiring with foreign agents to promote the interests of an apartheid state," which he said constituted "gross misconduct and a shameful capitalisation of his office".

A protest against the discussion was organised by the Oxford Students Palestinian Society and supported by groups including the Oxford Arab Society and the Oxford Socialist Worker Student Society.

Representatives of The Socialist Worker paper were also seen distributing flyers throughout the demonstration. 

According to Cherwell, an Oxford university paper, protestors could be heard chanting “Charlie, Charlie, you can’t hide, you’re supporting apartheid."

A group of demonstrators was ushered out of the debate after allegedly shouting that Palestinians are not terrorists. 

Following their removal, Ambassador Hotovely was applauded for praising the event’s display of free expression.

One student journalist said they saw a young man holding a Palestinian flag being escorted away by police after attempting to enter the venue.

The Oxford Student said three of their members were at the event, alleging that one of them experienced “racial profiling by the police in trying to report on the event.

“All three journalists were questioned, removed from the area, and threatened with arrest by the police,” they claimed in an article on their site.

An Oxford Union spokesperson told the JC on Friday: "The Oxford Union is proud of its heritage as a forum for the exchange and debate of a wide range of ideas and opinions. We encourage our members to challenge, question and scrutinise the views of our speakers and, especially in our Bicentenary year, reaffirm our commitment to upholding the principle of free speech.

“Members can demand a [no confidence] poll if they achieve 150 signatures within 48 hours – that threshold has not yet been met and therefore, as of the time of this email, a motion of no confidence has not been requisitioned.”

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