Allegations of anti-Semitism at Oxford

Parin Shah - News Reporter 20 February 2010

Oxford students faced accusations of anti-Semitism last week following the appearance of the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister at the Oxford Union.

Danny Ayalon faced significant disruption from the audience, including an allegedly anti-Semitic insult.

According to Cherwell, an Oxford student newspaper, a protester shouted, “IdhbaH al-Yahud.” Mr Ayalon translated this as “Kill the Jews.”

In an interview with Cherwell, the student involved claimed to have been misinterpreted: “My version went: ‘Khaybar, O Jews, we will win’.”

However, when The Cambridge Student (TCS) consulted Professor Charles Melville, Director of Studies in Oriental Studies at Pembroke College, he said, “Without the context, but relying on your transcription, it is clear that Ayalon is right and the ‘protester’ doesn’t know his a… from his e…”.

In a recent press release, Mr Ayalon described the insult as “tantamount to a call for genocide.” The statement released by Mr Ayalon’s office further asserted that “several students attempted to physically assault the Deputy Foreign Minister but were prevented from doing so by security.”

Speaking to Cherwell, Nabeel Qureshi, a protester, commented: “If a Holocaust denier came to the Union I would call him out on his lies rather than sit there treating him respectfully and letting him change history. Same principle.”

Cambridge linguist Rory Wallis told TCS: “When something supposedly constructive degenerates into the one-upmanship so indicative of the actual conflict one must weep. Ayalon made a big step to come out that night.”

The Oxford Union released a public statement of apology: “Whilst the vast majority of the audience behaved in an orderly and responsible fashion, some members continually interrupted the speech, and one individual in particular appears to have made a directly anti-Semitic remark.”

Oxford University’s Palestine Society also issued a statement saying, “It is our belief that Yisrael Beitenu, Danny Ayalon’s party, is a racist party which advocates apartheid policies… The protest was a massive success.”

The Palestine Society is also claiming that Mr Ayalon’s security team drove into one of the protesters as he photographed their car. The Thames Valley Police is investigating both the complaints of Mr Ayalon and the Palestinian Society.

The Oxford Union stated that it “believes in the rights of free speech and protecting our invited speakers’ ability to express themselves in an orderly and disciplined environment… Last night was unprecedented.”

Parin Shah – News Reporter