As students who were at Danny Ayalon’s recent speech at the Oxford Union, we feel that reports of the event have been hugely misrepresentive of the opposition to the speech. Reports have implied that Mr. Ayalon was the subject of hostile and vicious slurs, and painted him as the victim of a raging mob of anti-Semites. Despite the horrific slur made by one individual, which students strongly condemned, this should not tar the legitimate opposition to his speech, nor should it act as a smokescreen for the extremist views that he expressed that evening.
Mr. Ayalon began his speech by blithely and hypocritically emphasizing ‘Arab’ lack of food and water security, neglecting to acknowledge his own government’s brutal blockade on Gaza, which has left 80% of Gazans dependent on paltry food aid; he talked about ‘Christian Lebanon’ being Islamized by Iranian backing, in complete disrespect to the Muslim population of Lebanon; he justified illegal settlement construction on the Occupied Territories by simply asserting that “it’s our land”, in brazen defiance of numerous UN resolutions calling for Israel to withdraw; he denied the existence of a genuine Palestinian identity, disparaging it as an invented label for an invented people; he talked about the ‘demographic problem’ in Israel, a euphemism for his racist party’s fear of having too many Arabs in the country; he reduced Palestinian opposition of violations of their fundamental rights to a mere consequence of Iranian interference; and he dismissed UN resolutions calling on Israel to abide by international law (“if the UN passed a resolution saying that the earth was flat, would that make the earth flat?”).
The opposition challenged Mr. Ayalon concerning issues such as Israel’s illegal wall (ICJ ruling 2004) cutting through the West Bank; illegal settlement construction; the collective punishment of Gazans (violation of Geneva Convention 4:23); and the war crimes committed in January 2009 outlined in the Goldstone Report. Given the offensiveness and implicit racism of his speech, students, as an act of conscience, did not allow his lies to go unchallenged. Crucially, these lies are used to justify Israeli state policies: continued occupation and stranglehold of Palestinian territory, daily human rights abuses, and insane acts of violence.