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By Carl Lewis
Police have found no evidence for the widely reported claim that a student protester shouted “Slay the Jews” during an Israeli minister’s speech at the Oxford Union last term.
Analysis of a video of the event has revealed that Noor Rashid, a third-year at Teddy Hall, spoke accurately to authorities concerning what he shouted at Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
It did not find any evidence that Rashid uttered the Arabic phrase “Idhbah al-yahud,” meaning “kill the Jews,” as Mr. Ayalon told the audience and other media outlets have previously suggested.
According to a police report, Rashid’s actual remark in Arabic translates as “Khaybar, khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return,” a phrase which is based on a classical Arabic chant concerning a seventh-century battle between Arabs and Jews at Khaybar, in the Arabian Peninsula.
A spokesman for Mr. Ayalon said the Deputy Foreign Minister stands by his original claim that Rashid made anti-Semitic remarks, but admits he may have misinterpreted or misheard what the student actually said.
“It was very loud, and a lot of people were shouting at once. But even if we misheard the student, what he claims he shouted still has the same threatening, violent and genocidal intent, and is highly inflammatory. We find it very unfortunate that he is not being found guilty,” Ayalon’s spokesman said.
Rashid said his remark may have been distasteful but it was not intended as anti-Semitic. He said he meant it simply as a metaphor for the Palestinian people overcoming adversity.
“I never said to kill the Jews. I think anti-Semitism is deplorable. Sure, what I shouted wasn’t the nicest thing in the world, but it’s entirely different than advocating genocide,” Rashid said.
Otared Haidar, an Arabic scholar at Oxford’s Oriental Institute, referred to Rashid’s remark as an “outdated slogan that should not be used.”
“It’s better that we speak in modern terms, and a lot more civil,” Haidar said.
The 8th February incident drew national media attention after Ayalon accused Rashid during the event and later posted the accusations on his Twitter page.
Eyewitness accounts of the event varied widely since few of those in attendance spoke Arabic and could interpret or remember what Rashid said.
Rashid called coverage of the incident “provocative, inflammatory and slanderous to my name.”
“Now when people Google my name, hate speech comes up that I didn’t actually say,” he said.
Rashid said he considered pressing charges against the Cherwell newspaper after it published an account stating the allegations against him as fact, but eventually relented because of legal costs.
Thames Valley Police have dropped their investigation into Rashid, citing a lack of evidence.
“We take accusations of racist hate speech very seriously, and we could not find any proof that such behavior took place in this incident,” a police spokeswoman said.
The Oxford Union has confirmed that Rashid will remain a Union member.