UK's Royal Society of Arts apologises for hosting Israel-linked event

UK's Royal Society of Arts apologises for hosting Israel-linked event
A trade union representing workers at the Royal Society of Arts said staff were 'shocked and disgusted' to learn their employer was hosting such event.
3 min read
16 December, 2023
A protest took place outside the Royal Society of Arts in London on Thursday [Matthew Chattle/Future Publishing via Getty Images]

A British arts organisation has apologised over its hosting of an event allegedly encouraging UK-Israel investment on Thursday.

The New Arab could not verify the name or nature of the function, which saw protesters demonstrate outside the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in London.

The RSA Union, which represents workers at the arts organisation, said staff were "shocked and disgusted" to discover their employer was hosting the event.

"As a union, we stand in full solidarity with the people of Palestine," said the union, part of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

"Many staff made the decision to leave the building upon learning about the event. To witness the RSA, an organisation with a stated vision of enabling 'people, places, and the planet to flourish', endorsing and profiting off the back of an ongoing genocide, is absolutely shameful.

"Today [Thursday], staff at the RSA are ashamed by our employer. People who are responsible for this event taking place should be held to account."

Live Story

The website of the investment forum allegedly hosted at the RSA said it was taking place on Thursday in central London.

Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely and Deputy British Prime Minister Oliver Dowden were listed as speakers at the event.

The conference's website also said there would be a video message from Israel's President Isaac Herzog.

The conference came amid Israel's assault on Gaza, which has so far killed more than 18,800 people - mostly women and children.

It also came a day after British broadcaster Sky News published an interview with Hotovely in which she said "absolutely no" to a two-state solution after the war.

Asked whether it was appropriate for Dowden to speak at the event after Hotovely's remark, a spokesperson for the UK Cabinet Office said: "As the deputy prime minister made clear, the [British] government is committed to a two-state solution that protects the peace and security of both Israelis and Palestinians, with the West Bank and Gaza part of a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.

"The government undertakes routine dialogue and engagement with foreign governments."

An RSA spokesperson said an event was being held at the arts organisation on Thursday by an external client "who did not disclose the full event details in advance".

"The RSA neither condones nor endorses this event. We are an apolitical organisation and have launched an internal investigation," the spokesperson added.

"We apologise extensively to anyone affected and upset by this today [Thursday] and will ensure that robust measures are put in place in the future to ensure this will not happen again."

News website openDemocracy quoted an RSA spokesperson as saying they were not aware of any staff walkout on Thursday.

The media outlet said it understood "that staff left in protest at the event with permission from a senior staff member", meaning they were "technically not considered to have engaged in a formal walkout".

Live Story

A spokesperson for London's Metropolitan Police said officers arrived quickly at the scene of a protest outside the RSA.

"We imposed conditions on the group at 13:28, and they moved away from the property by 13:38," the spokesperson said.

"One man, not believed to be part of the protest, was arrested for section 5 of the Public Order Act having been asked to leave the event at the property by security."

A Met spokesperson separately added that a 24-year-old man recognised by officers as an activist for environmental group Just Stop Oil was arrested "in the vicinity" for allegedly breaching his bail conditions.

The New Arab contacted the company responsible for putting on the UK-Israel investment event for comment but did not receive a response before publication.