Read the full transcript of our discussion with the Former Israeli Deputy FM about Gaza and Israel’s nuclear programme.
Mehdi Hasan – VO: May 2018. Palestinians and Israelis mark 70 years of conflict in the Middle East.
Mehdi Hasan – VO: Israelis – celebrating the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.
Benjamin Netanyahu (archive): “What a glorious day. Remember this moment!”
Mehdi Hasan – VO: Palestinians – running for their lives.
Mehdi Hasan – VO: Protesting against the Israeli blockade on Gaza which has made their lives unbearable.
Mehdi Hasan – VO: In two months, more than 100 Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers; children, paramedics and journalists.
Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein (archive): “These people were shot in the back, in the head and limbs with live ammunition.”
Mehdi Hasan – VO: Israel blamed Hamas.
Major Keren Hajioff (archive): “The Hamas terrorist organisation have sent their women and children as a ploy to hide their true intentions.”
Mehdi Hasan – VO: The Israeli’s, however, seemed to see the Palestinians as a sideshow. They’re much more obsessed with getting the world to focus on the supposed threat from Iran.
Benjamin Netanyahu (archive): Iran lied!
Mehdi Hasan: I’m Mehdi Hasan and I’ve come to the Oxford Union to go Head to Head with Danny Ayalon, who served as Israel’s deputy foreign minister, ambassador to the United States and adviser to Prime Ministers Sharon, Barak and Netanyahu. I’ll challenge him on whether Israel’s shooting of Palestinian protesters is moral or legal and I’ll ask him not only about Iran’s nuclear programme but Israel’s own nuclear weapons.
Mehdi Hasan – VO: Tonight, I’ll also be joined by Professor Avi Shlaim; the renowned Israeli-British historian, Paul Charney, chairman of the UK Zionist Federation, and Diana Buttu, the Palestinian lawyer and former adviser to the PLO.
Mehdi Hasan: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Danny Ayalon. Currently, he heads “The Truth about Israel”, a Zionist advocacy organisation.
Mehdi Hasan: Thank you for coming.
Danny Ayalon: Thank you, thank you very much.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny Ayalon, on May 14th of this year, the Israeli government celebrated the 70th anniversary of your country’s independence at the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, I believe you were there as well, at that event, while over in Gaza on that same day Israeli army snipers killed 62 Palestinians in cold blood, gunned them down in full view of the world’s television cameras. How do you justify, can you justify, the killing of unarmed Palestinian protesters, journalists, paramedics, kids?
Danny Ayalon: Well Mehdi, no one can justify killing innocent people, but I’m not sure this was the case, the 14th of May there were -, you’re right, 62 persons were killed, they were pushed by their leaders of the Hamas, who by the way want to destroy the state of Israel, they were using them as human shields as some of them were behind them with bombs, incendiary, Molotov and other things. By the way, the 62, Hamas itself confessed the second day that out of the 62, 50 were active Hamas members. All the rest, well, I mean, we call it in, in a way which I don’t like “collateral damage”, but we have to look at who is responsible for the death, and the responsible is only Hamas.
Mehdi Hasan: Here’s a question to you; 143 Palestinians at least, and the count keeps changing because Israelis keep killing more, have died since March 30th, since the beginning of the so-called “Great March of Return”. Fifteen thousand Palestinians, let’s just be clear, 15,000 have been wounded, 4,000 of them according to the United Nations were shot with live ammunition. Are you telling us, are you telling the Oxford Union audience here, the audience at home, that those 15,000 people were all members of Hamas? Seriously?
Danny Ayalon: Mehdi Hasan, I can look at anyone here in their eyes and say Israel is doing its level best not to kill anyone who is not involved. It’s very important to know who is responsible here, because -.
Mehdi Hasan: Is it not the-, is it not the responsibility of the people pulling the trigger? That’s normally how you hold people responsible for someone being killed.
Danny Ayalon: No. Well -, well -, well, how do you define pulling the trigger?
Mehdi Hasan: Um -.
Danny Ayalon: If you have the Hamas people -.
Mehdi Hasan: A man with a gun -.
Danny Ayalon: Yeah -.
Mehdi Hasan: Aims at a child from a 150 metres away and shoots him in the head.
Danny Ayalon: What about -, what about Palestinian terrorists were hiding behind innocent people who are launching rockets. Who are launching rockets!
Mehdi Hasan: OK, well it -, well it’s a simple question. 15,000 wounded, how many of them were either members of Hamas, slash, terrorists?
Danny Ayalon: I do not know. I know that from the 62 on the 14th of May, 50 were Hamas by their own admission. On the other -.
Mehdi Hasan: No, we don’t know that because there hasn’t been an investigation.
Danny Ayalon: The facts are (overtalking) no -.
Mehdi Hasan: You got their Hamas membership forms from their bodies? What -, what’s the facts?
Danny Ayalon: No. The facts are -, the facts are that Hamas leadership, sometimes at gunpoint, are sending those poor Hamas -, th -, those poor Gazan people to the borders. Now, [what is this] -.
Mehdi Hasan: What evidence for that? The UN doesn’t say that; human rights groups don’t say that.
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s come back to the -, the shootings here. Even if they were all members of Hamas, even if all 15,000 people are, you do realise that under international law and basic morality you can’t shoot people for being members of a group, no matter what group it is. You can only shoot them when they pose an imminent threat to you. Were 15,000 people posing an imminent threat to Israeli snipers?
Danny Ayalon: Yes, they were. Yes, they were.
Mehdi Hasan: OK.
Danny Ayalon: And I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you how. First of all, not to the Israeli snipers but certainly to the Israeli kids and babies and women and men who live in their own territory. Hamas is sending their people, it’s not just demonstration -,
Mehdi Hasan: Countless Palestinians at the protest have been interviewed and they said, “We weren’t sent by Hamas.”
Danny Ayalon: Just go into the blogs -.
Mehdi Hasan: But they’re all liars, are they?
Danny Ayalon: Just go to the blogs of Hamas where they say, “The Jews are sons of pigs and sons of dogs, and they have a -.”
Mehdi Hasan: And you’re now quoting them as a reliable source, that’s my favourite -.
Danny Ayalon: No!
Mehdi Hasan: I’ve interviewed so many Israelis, you’re the first to come here and say -.
Danny Ayalon: No!
Mehdi Hasan: “My source is Hamas.” The first.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, it is.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, it -.
Mehdi Hasan: In 10 years of doing this.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, it is.
Mehdi Hasan: Wow.
Danny Ayalon: Because all you have to do is to see what they say. I -, I just -.
Mehdi Hasan: Well no, how about we look at -, how about we look at some facts rather than your -, your kind of dodgy blogs?
Danny Ayalon: I just quote Hamas.
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s -, let me ask you this. Well, look, I’ll just quote the people who died and their family members. What threat did Razan al-Najjar, 21-year-old volunteer paramedic who was shot while wearing a white uniform in the chest, a hundred meters away from the fence, what threat did she pose to Israeli snipers?
Danny Ayalon: Wait a minute. This is something I really looked into, OK? She -.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m glad someone did.
Danny Ayalon: Yes. She was having an incendiary bomb, and there is an investigation by the IDF, so she was a threat. But I have another questions for you; why -.
Mehdi Hasan: Where’s your -, hold on, no, no, before -.
Danny Ayalon: Why was she -, why was she going into a-, it’s a warzone!
Mehdi Hasan: Why? You know why she was going, because you’re killing her people and she’s a paramedic.
Mehdi Hasan: Can you tell me how many Israelis were killed by Palestinian protesters since March the 30th? Simple question.
Danny Ayalon: You know, again, I didn’t check it but, you know -.
Mehdi Hasan: Zero. But you are the ones under threat.
Danny Ayalon: No, no, no. I want to a -, why is it that no Israeli was killed? ‘Cause the Israeli government, elected democratically, is defending them. Hamas people, not defending the people -.
Mehdi Hasan: Palestinians don’t get a right to self-defence, do they?
Danny Ayalon: No, no, no, they are sending them to die.
Danny Ayalon: Listen, it’s a culture of death.
Mehdi Hasan: You keep saying they were sent to their death -.
Danny Ayalon: Yes.
Mehdi Hasan: As if Israelis have no agency. You were forced to pull the trigger. You just shot them because Hamas whispered in your ears to shoot them.
Danny Ayalon: No.
Mehdi Hasan: You could choose not to kill people at a fence who are just damaging a fence allegedly, as the UN, the EU, international lawyers have said. No other country shoots people in this way, in the back as they’re running away.
Danny Ayalon: Mehdi Hasan, I’m sorry if I show some impatience, but it’s not a human rights situation. It’s an area in conflict. It’s an armed conflict, absolutely!
Mehdi Hasan: [Oh I see,] it’s a warzone, there’s no human rights, you could do whatever you want!
Danny Ayalon: Well, there is -, there is -.
Mehdi Hasan: Is that what Israel’s position is?
Danny Ayalon: There is laws of [war] -.
Mehdi Hasan: Shoot people in the back, shoot nurses, shoot kids.
Danny Ayalon: Listen, listen -.
Mehdi Hasan: Shoot journalists.
Danny Ayalon: I’ll ask -, you have a border, you have thousands of people stampeding over to your borders with knives in their hands, with bombs, and you know that you have kindergartens, you have schools, [you have to save] people.
Mehdi Hasan: Journalists and eye-witnesses say there were not thousands of people with bombs, that is a false statement Danny and you know it.
Danny Ayalon: Out of these thousands, it’s enough that one has a bomb, but -, but more -.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, I’m glad you’ve gone from thousands to one.
Danny Ayalon: But -, no, no! I -, no.
Mehdi Hasan: Good, we’re getting somewhere.
Danny Ayalon: No, you’re putting words in my mouth.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m putting your own words in your own mouth.
Danny Ayalon: No, you’re not.
Mehdi Hasan: You said thousands went with knives -.
Danny Ayalon: No, no.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m saying that’s not true. Do you stand by that statement? Do you stand by that statement?
Danny Ayalon: You know what, I stand -, I -, I said something else. I said even if there was one, there were thousand but even if there was one I say you are wrong. So please -.
Mehdi Hasan: You say -, you say this 21-year-old nurse, Razan al-Najjar had a bomb. No evidence of that, eye-witnesses say not true.
Danny Ayalon: Well, it is still under investigation. By the way -.
Mehdi Hasan: There’s videos of her holding her hands up.
Mehdi Hasan: Let me ask you this; Yasser Murtaja, journalist, 30 years old, shot in the stomach by an Israeli sniper. He was 250 metres away from the fence. Why was he -, why was he -, what knife did he have? What knife was he carrying?
Danny Ayalon: Mehdi, you can quote hundreds of names, if you look at them individually, I feel bad for them and for their families, even if they were coming to harm us.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m not asking you to feel bad, I’m asking how do you justify killing -.
Danny Ayalon: I say because -, because -, because they came with a -, a harm intention. If they were coming -.
Mehdi Hasan: Where’s your proof of that?
Mehdi Hasan: Yasser [al-] Murtaja was not Hamas, was a journalist, you shot him in the stomach, your country shot him in the stomach, he -, and you claim he had a hurtful intention. That’s an outrageous claim to make of someone who’s dead without any evidence. That’s literally smearing the dead.
Danny Ayalon: No, anyone who goes into a warzone knows exactly what he’s doing. They’re -, they’re -.
Mehdi Hasan: What is a warzone?
Danny Ayalon: When they come and attack us, it’s a warzone.
Mehdi Hasan: He wasn’t attacking you.
Mehdi Hasan: If you pull a gun, you aim at someone and you shoot them. Remember the Israeli military bragged on Twitter, “We know where every bullet landed.”
Danny Ayalon: Mehdi, you go around a circle to the same point, and the point is that we have a border -.
Mehdi Hasan: You don’t have a border.
Danny Ayalon: A legitimate border, well they tried to cross it -.
Mehdi Hasan: You don’t have a border, Danny.
Danny Ayalon: Not with flowers -.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny, Gaza is an occupied territory. This nonsense that you have a border is absurd.
Danny Ayalon: Not with candy, but with bombs. Listen, well, I’m sorry, I’m sorry -.
Mehdi Hasan: Gaza is an occupied territory, the people there are living in an open-air prison camp and you’re saying it’s a border.
Danny Ayalon: No, no, I -, I beg to differ, I beg to differ. Gaza is not an occupied territory, because Gaza was handed to -.
Mehdi Hasan: You beg to differ with the United Nations, the European Union, the International Criminal Court -.
Danny Ayalon: No, no.
Mehdi Hasan: Every Western government. The International Committee for the Red Cross says Gaza is being treated with collective punishment, that’s the view of the ICRC.
Mehdi Hasan: Can I ask a question? Does Israel control Gaza’s borders, airspace and territorial waters, yes or no?
Danny Ayalon: No. No.
Mehdi Hasan: [Who does]?
Danny Ayalon: No.
Mehdi Hasan: Really?
Danny Ayalon: Isra-, no!
Mehdi Hasan: Wow.
Danny Ayalon: Because I’ll tell you -.
Mehdi Hasan: You’re just going to come here and say bare-faced falsehoods?
Danny Ayalon: No, the things are not yes and no.
Mehdi Hasan: So, fishermen who go beyond six miles and get shot, they just imagine the bullets hitting them?
Danny Ayalon: Listen, listen -, the blockade is because -, the blockade is because -,
Mehdi Hasan: Didn’t actually ask about the blockade but I’m glad you brought that up.
Danny Ayalon: No, the Hamas is killing us!
Mehdi Hasan: The World Bank says you’re strangling Palestinian territory with the blockade.
Danny Ayalon: The Hamas is killing and want to kill us, and they say, “We want to blot Israel off the map, we don’t want any Jews there,” and this is the main problem.
Mehdi Hasan: Your former boss, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s current defence minister, founder of your party -.
Danny Ayalon: Oh, you -, you are -, you raise now a touchy issue. I would like to (overtalking) [refer to me as my former boss].
Mehdi Hasan: OK, well he’s the defence -, he’s -, hold on, he’s -, he is your former boss, he’s also the current defence minister of Israel.
Danny Ayalon: I’m not with the party anymore, independent, please, let it be recorded.
Mehdi Hasan: OK. He said -, he said, quote, “There are no innocent people in the Gaza Strip,” to justify the killings, do you support that statement?
Danny Ayalon: Listen, I’m not in the government, I do not support Lieberman, I do not support many things he says, I -, I don’t think that there are not innocent people in Gaza, there are, but they’re subject to the terror of Hamas, and they’re sending them into the border.
Mehdi Hasan: And when General Zvika Vogel, former head of Southern Command, said in April, “If a child or anyone else gets close to the fence his punishment is death,” do you support that? Death penalty for anyone who comes near a fence?
Danny Ayalon: I -, I don’t agree to that, except if he is holding a weapon.
Mehdi Hasan: Mohammed Ibrahim Ayoub, 14 years old, was not holding any weapon. An Israeli sniper shot him in the head. Did he deserve to die?
Danny Ayalon: No one deserves to die unless they aim to kill.
Mehdi Hasan: So, why did an Israeli sniper shoot him in the head?
Danny Ayalon: Unless they aim to kill.
Mehdi Hasan: He wasn’t aiming to kill, so why was he shot in the head?
Danny Ayalon: I’m not sure, I’m not sure. If you look at the -, if you look at the -, at the facts -.
Mehdi Hasan: What are the facts?
Danny Ayalon: The facts are -.
Mehdi Hasan: I mean, you don’t do -, there’s no transparent investigations, you don’t allow any international investigators in, and then you say, trust you – that the nurse had a bomb and a 14-year-old guy was going to kill a sniper.
Danny Ayalon: I do trust the Israeli military, I do trust the Israeli Supreme Court which is very much trusted by all the world, Israel is transparent -, Israel -.
Mehdi Hasan: Pfft, that’s -.
Danny Ayalon: Well, I’m sorry -.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s not what human rights groups in Israel say.
Danny Ayalon: Listen, I may say-, I may say things which may be inconvenient truth but -.
Mehdi Hasan: They’re also not true factually but -.
Danny Ayalon: But I’m here to speak the truth.
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s go to our panel that we are talking to here in the Oxford Union. Diana Butto is an Israeli -, is a Palestinian citizen in Israel, is a human rights lawyer, is a former adviser to the PLO. Would you concede that Hamas does have some responsibility for the way in which is runs Gaza, for the way in which it incites attacks against Israel, for some of the deaths in Pa-, in-, in the Gaza Strip?
Diana Buttu: Absolutely not. Every choice Israel has made, Israel’s always had an opportunity to choose whether to kill these -, these people who are out -, who are protesting, or not to kill them, and they have deliberately chosen to kill them. The idea that, somehow, we are all linked to Hamas, that somehow we -, because people are linked to Hamas that they are not human beings, is absolutely ridiculous. He knows very well that the only time that a soldier can shoot is if that soldier himself or herself is under imminent threat; there have been no Israeli soldiers killed or injured, it means that what Israel’s doing is deliberately choosing to slaughter Palestinians.
Mehdi Hasan: Before I bring back Danny to respond to that -.
Mehdi Hasan: Before I bring back -, before I bring back Danny to respond to that -.
Danny Ayalon: No way, no way!
Mehdi Hasan: Paul Charney’s here from the Zionist Federation of the UK, former -, you served in the IDF?
Paul Charney: I did.
Mehdi Hasan: When you see what’s going on in Gaza, when you put yourself in those positions of those Israeli soldiers, do you -, do you say, “You know what, they shouldn’t have pulled a trigger on those kids, they weren’t posing an imminent threat. A 14-year-old boy’s not a threat to me,” or do you say actually as Danny does, “Everyone could be a threat?”
Paul Charney: So, as an officer in the IDF, I held myself to the highest regards and I hope that h-, they held me to the highest regard. No one in the Israeli army has got-, has ever had an order to kill l-, civilians, that’s never happened; I’ve never been around to see it, I’ve never heard it happen. On -, on the other side of it, when Hamas tell Israel that “We are here to breach that border and come and kill civilians,” we take them in Israel very seriously. It’s the one thing you can trust with Hamas, breaching a border, breaching a border of any country is an act of war. Do not ask Israel not to defend their civilians.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, let’s put that point to-, let’s put that point to Avi Shlaim.
Mehdi Hasan: Avi Shlaim, prominent British Israeli historian, former professor here at Oxford University. Avi Shlaim, any other country would do what Israel’s done, Israel has a right to defend itself, is what we hear.
Avi Shlaim: I served in the IDF in the mid-1960s and I served loyally and proudly because in my time the IDF was true to its name, it was the Israel Defence Force. But after the June 1967 war, everything changed. Israel became a colonial power and the IDF became the brutal police force of a brutal colonial power. But there is absolutely no self-defence justification for Israel’s brutal policies in Gaza over the last 11 years. A whole series of war crimes were committed and Israel continued to commit war crimes in Gaza in every successive vicious assault on the people of Gaza, not Hamas.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny, isn’t -, isn’t that the -, isn’t that the problem that Avi points out, that you keep saying, you know, “Israel has a right to defend itself, Israeli families [are allowed to] …,” but when you look at the numbers over the last 10, 15 years just alone, the ratio is phenomenal. It’s the Gazans who are being killed, not Israelis, in their thousands. Five hundred kids killed in one summer bombardment.
Danny Ayalon: The ratio speaks of the ruthless cruelty of the Hamas leaders.
Mehdi Hasan: So, you don’t take responsibility for any death of any Palestinian civilian, because ultimately it’s all Hamas’ fault, always?
Danny Ayalon: Yes, it is.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s a great get-out-of-jail-free card. OK.
Danny Ayalon: Yes, it is. Yes, it is. I’m not saying that there are no accidents, which are deplorable, but the responsibility squarely lies with Hamas.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny, I want to ask you this; Israel prides itself on being a democracy, you say, supposedly the only democracy in the Middle East, yet in recent years even Israel’s own human rights organisations are saying democracy there is under assault from a series of authoritarian, racist, far-right laws.
Danny Ayalon: Israel is a democracy, rule of law, you know, two of our leaders were thrown into jail, and you know what? It was an Arab Israeli who threw the president of Israel into jail.
Mehdi Hasan: When the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, passes the Boycott Law which makes any Israeli organisation that calls for a boycott against Israel liable to be sued for damages, the Nakba Law, which cuts state funding from any organisation which marks the country’s independence day as a day of mourning, the NGO Law, which targets quote/unquote “foreign-funded human rights organisations”, one parliamentarian in Israel called it “A semi-fascistic law that harms democracy and is reminiscent of Putin’s Russia.” That’s an Israeli politician speaking.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, because in Israel you can say anything and you can -, you know what, no one attacks the Israeli government more than Israelis and Israeli newspapers, and I’m proud of that. I am proud of that. Israel is a democracy, anybody can come and go, say and speaks what he wants
Mehdi Hasan: Reuven Rivlin, who is the president of Israel, not a liberal, conservative -.
Danny Ayalon: I respect him very much, yeah.
Mehdi Hasan: Anti-Palestinian stater, he says Israel -, “Israeli society is sick, it is our duty to treat this disease.” You don’t agree with him either?
Danny Ayalon: I don’t agree with that, but I respect what he says.
Mehdi Hasan: Why are all these people saying it? Have they all gone mad?
Danny Ayalon: Because they are -, well, they are concerned, they are entitled to their own views, and -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, you’re not concerned about these trends?
Danny Ayalon: No, and they are -, listen, they speak subjectively, it doesn’t mean that this is the objective situation. It’s not that Israel is perfect, no country is -.
Mehdi Hasan: Let me give you an example from your time in office. You were in government under Avigdor Lieberman, you were his deputy foreign minister, he was foreign minister.
Danny Ayalon: Yeah.
Mehdi Hasan: He and you wanted to subject Israel’s one and a half millions citizens of -, Palestinian citizens to an oath of loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state, a proposal so controversial one minister at the time described it as “borderline fascist”.
Danny Ayalon: Do you know that every American, I don’t know how it is here, pledge the law, the loyalty of allegiance every day in school?
Mehdi Hasan: Americans don’t pledge allegiance to Christianity, they have a separation of-, it’s not…
Danny Ayalon: We do not either, we do not either.
Mehdi Hasan: No, the proposal was you had to support Israel as a Jewish state.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, but Judaism is not only a religion.
Mehdi Hasan: Oh, is it a nationality? That’s even worse.
Danny Ayalon: It’s -, no. It’s a -, no.
Mehdi Hasan: To be asking people to pledge allegiance to a religion and a race they’re not part of, and you’re comparing that to the US oath of allegiance.
Danny Ayalon: Judais -, Judaism is a way of life, is a culture, is a whole civilisation, if you will. So, there’s nothing wrong with pledging allegiance country. The country -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, you supported that policy which was eventually watered down because it was so controversial.
Danny Ayalon: Listen, the country that clothes you and protects you, and give you jobs, and give you money, including to all the Arab Israelis.
Mehdi Hasan: OK. Diana Buttu, you, are a Palestinian citizen of Israel, do you recognise the very rosy picture being painted by Danny Ayalon?
Diana Buttu: Absolutely not. Look, one thing that he is conveniently overlooking is that Israel is -, describes itself as being a Jewish state, which by its very definition excludes me, and the -, the state is founded on this concept of Jewish privilege, which means that when the -, when the Supreme Court, this court that he lauds so much, has faced the question of whether Israel’s a Jewish state or a democracy it has always chosen Jewish state, which means that Jewish privilege exists. And we see this through everything, from the 60 laws that directly discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel, to the way that people such as Ayalon and others deal with Palestinians for everything from calling for our heads to be chopped off, for us to be drowned, for oaths of loyalty. What they fail to recognise is that -, that we didn’t come to Israel, we didn’t immigrate to Israel, Israel came to us.
Mehdi Hasan: Avi Shlaim, many would say you’re on the left of the political spectrum. When you look at Israeli society today, do you worry about the trends? Do you share President’s Rivlin’s view that this is a quote/unquote “sick society” that needs some kind of treatment?
Avi Shlaim: I’m very troubled about the trend in Israeli society, Israel within its original borders is a democracy. It’s a flawed democracy, but so are all other democracies. But if you look at Israel and the West Bank and Gaza it -, Israel most emphatically, most decidedly, is not a democracy. It’s an ethnocracy; it’s a system in which one ethnic group dominates the others. And there is another word for ethnocracy, and that is apartheid, and this is what Israel is.
Mehdi Hasan: Paul, I’m going to ask you two questions; one is the same question I asked Avi, are you worried about the trends in Israel, does that worry you at all? And secondly, do you want to respond to Avi’s claim about Israel being an ethnocracy and an apartheid state?
Paul Charney: Every democracy around the world has its own unique features. The Israeli democracy and the “Israeliness” was built and established because of what happened in -, partially because of what happened in the Holocaust, and therefore, a Jewish majority must remain for safety and for security because we’ve seen what happens when you rely on the rest of the world for your safety.
Number two: Anyone else who lives as an Israeli has absolute equal rights. Every Israeli Arab has the same rights of university, of hospitals, of -, of Supreme Court in law, and everything else.
Mehdi Hasan: Diana’s shaking her head. She’s saying no.
Diana Buttu: The Knesset has time and again been asked the simple question “Is Israel a state that’s founded on equality or is there no equality?” and time and again, It will not allow a simple law that calls for equality, and the fundamental problem is that they do not recognise my right to exist and my right to be there.
Danny Ayalon: Listen, have you -, have you ever been arrested by Israeli police? Have you ever been beaten by Israeli police? Have you been ever -.
Diana Buttu: Yes, actually, I have.
Danny Ayalon: Oh well -, well, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mehdi Hasan: That was a -, that’s probably -.
Diana Buttu: [Yes I have, exactly].
Mehdi Hasan: Not the best question to ask a Palestinian.
Danny Ayalon: Yes, yes, yes.
Danny Ayalon: I -, I really feel y -, you can check the bruises, she is all bruised up, right?
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s just be clear. First, you’re saying that if you haven’t been beaten by the Israeli police you’re an equal member of society, and then, when someone says they have been beaten by Israeli police you say, “Where are the bruises?”
Danny Ayalon: No, no, listen -.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m just -, I’m asking you to clarify what was said.
Danny Ayalon: She went to school; was she denied education? Was she denied social – (overtalking).
Mehdi Hasan: So, that’s your definition?
Danny Ayalon: What is your definition?
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, in -, in -.
Danny Ayalon: She is Israeli, just like me.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, black people -, black Americans during the Jim Crow era could go to school, it doesn’t mean that there wasn’t massive segregation and discrimination against black Americans.
Danny Ayalon: This is -, but there is not -, but Israel is -.
Mehdi Hasan: It’s weird, weird criteria.
Danny Ayalon: No, but Jews and Arabs can go to school together -.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you support -.
Danny Ayalon: And they do go to school together.
Mehdi Hasan: There -, there were protests on TV just a few weeks ago, Israelis were saying they didn’t want to sell a house in their town to a Palestinian family, (overtalking) apartheid.
Danny Ayalon: Fine, and how many Arabs -, and how many Arabs did not want to sell to Israeli?
Mehdi Hasan: “That’s fine,” did you just say “That’s fine”?
Danny Ayalon: Listen -.
Mehdi Hasan: Did you just say “That’s fine” to Israeli people protesting against the sale of a house in their town?
Danny Ayalon: No, it’s -.
Mehdi Hasan: Are you OK with that?
Danny Ayalon: They can protest, which is good.
Mehdi Hasan: Are you saying it’s good, your words, for people to protest against the sale of a house to a Palestinian family to keep the town Jewish-only? ‘Cause that’s what I just said happened and you said, “Fine,” and then you said, “good.” Are you OK with that?
Danny Ayalon: Listen, you have people here and there who I do not believe that they’re right, but it is the law -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, you would condemn those pro -, so would you condemn those protests? Because a moment ago you said it’s “good” that they’re protesting.
Danny Ayalon: Because it’s a democratic society, you can protest.
Mehdi Hasan: But it’s a racist protest! You don’t have to be OK with the protest.
Danny Ayalon: You can protest whatever you want! It’s called -, it’s called -.
Mehdi Hasan: But you condemn those protests?
Danny Ayalon: It’s called freedom of expression and speech.
Mehdi Hasan: And he is -, and I’m asking you to give us some free speech, do you condemn those protests?
Danny Ayalon: I condemn anything which is biased against race, religion -.
Mehdi Hasan: I’ll ask again.
Danny Ayalon: Gender -.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you condemn those protests, Danny?
Danny Ayalon: Protests as such or what they represent?
Mehdi Hasan: Whatever you like Danny, just do something! Give me an answer!
Danny Ayalon: I condemn -, you know what, I condemn any racism.
Mehdi Hasan: OK.
Danny Ayalon: OK?
Mehdi Hasan: A general statement, you won’t condemn those protests, though.
Danny Ayalon: I would condemn them.
Mehdi Hasan: Oh wow, OK, we got there.
Mehdi Hasan: Last question, another one, since you’re in a mood of condemnation. Benjamin Netanyahu, you say you don’t speak for the government -.
Danny Ayalon: Not at all.
Mehdi Hasan: In 2015, he said during the election campaign, “The right-wing government is in danger, Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls.” Surely that was an example of unashamed naked racism towards a fifth of the population from the prime minister of the country?
Danny Ayalon: I would not use this, I would not do that, but you have to understand something else. In democracy, right, in democracy, you do everything you can do in order to win the elections.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s not what I asked.
Danny Ayalon: And -.
Mehdi Hasan: I mean, racist parties do racist things to win elections.
Danny Ayalon: No, you have to look at -, no.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m asking you do you agree it’s racist?
Danny Ayalon: It’s wrong but not racist.
Mehdi Hasan: We’re going to take a break, it’s going to continue in part two, we’re going to be talking about the Iran deal and Israel’s position on Iran and nuclear weapons. We’ll be hearing from our very patient audience here in the Oxford Union, do join us after the break.
Mehdi Hasan: Welcome back to Head to Head on Al Jazeera English, I am joined this week by Danny Ayalon, former Israeli deputy foreign minister, founder of the group “The Truth about Israel”. Danny, you have lobbied extensively against the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA; you think it’s a bad deal and, like Prime Minister Netanyahu, you welcomed President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of that deal to violate it. So, to be clear, you don’t agree that the deal, with all its faults, is working and is putting off the realisation of the Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.
Danny Ayalon: No, if you look for the last two and a half years since the deal was signed in Vienna, you see the aggression of Iran not only has, has multiplied by two, by 10 ten times, Iran since signing the deal has become much more aggressive, has not stopped testing ballistic missiles and you do ballistic missiles only to put a warhead which is nuclear, nothing else, and the deal itself is not actually neutralising the capability of Iran, it just supposedly suspends it and so -.
Mehdi Hasan: So people who say -, so people who say the Iran deal has neutralised a major threat to the world, they’re wrong.
Danny Ayalon: Absolutely, maybe -.
Mehdi Hasan: That’s the former head of Shin Bet Israeli intelligence, Carmi Gillon.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, you’re right, maybe, maybe they were just -.
Mehdi Hasan: And the quote I said earlier about “with all its faults, it’s working, it’s putting off realisation of the Iranian nuclear vision”, do you know who said that? The head of the Israel’s military, General Gadi Eisenkot, so what do you know that the head of Israel’s military and the former head of its spy service don’t know?
Danny Ayalon: And guess what? The head of Israeli military, he is still there working with everybody because we have pluralism of ideas. OK.
Mehdi Hasan: But the substance, Danny, substance of what he said.
Danny Ayalon: The substance, OK, the substance is that there is a sunset clause where they can, now in seven and half years become a nuclear country; the substance is that there is no verification which is robust and many sites are precluded because they are declared military sites.
Mehdi Hasan: The head of the IAEA the UN body classed with investigating nuclear programmes around the world. Says quote, “Iran is subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification region under the UJCPA, which is a significant gain. As of today, the IAEA can confirm that the nuclear-related commitments are being implemented by Iran.” That was him in May. So, who should we trust the head of the IEA or you?
Danny Ayalon: Trust the facts. Trust the facts and straight logic, common logic. I believe that the IAEA are not lying, they did not find anything, but why aren’t they finding anything? Because they have 24 days in advance to let them know they are coming and there are many, many areas which are designed military areas where they have no entry to. Now, we know that Iran has lied and has cheated time and again. As a member -.
Mehdi Hasan: We don’t know that, but -.
Danny Ayalon: – wait a minute, as a signatory to NPT, Non-Proliferation Treaty, they have broken all the rules, all international commitments -.
Mehdi Hasan: What I don’t understand is, if it’s common sense, as you say, why is it that the head of Israel’s military, the former head of Shin Bet, the former head of Mossad your spy agency, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, the former head of Israel’s atomic energy commission, the chair of Israel’s space agencies. Your country’s top military defence, intelligence, nuclear experts are saying the deal’s a good deal; it protects Israel, it protects the region, it protects the world. Why should we ignore all of them and trust you, Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump?
Danny Ayalon: They do not say it’s a good deal. They say the situation is better than before, and I say it’s not better than before, it may put Iran “on hold”, but we are not certain -.
Mehdi Hasan: And yet, and yet the worlds non-proliferation experts in open letters, the top nuclear scientists in the world, the EU, the UN, the IAEA, they all say it’s working.
Danny Ayalon: I know international diplomacy, there is nothing which is more hypocritical and cynic. There are some interest to our in, in-between. I can tell you that until ’38 most people here said Germany, Nazi Germany is not a threat, were they all wrong? Yes, they were all wrong. Are they all wrong now? Yes, they are.
Mehdi Hasan: It’s funny, you talk about predictions; in 1992, your prime minister said Iran was three years away from building the nukes, that was 26 years ago. In 1995, he said Iran was three-to-five years away from building nukes. In 2009, he said they were one-to-two years away from building nukes. The boy who cried wolf had a better record with wolves than Netanyahu has with Iran’s nuclear programme. Why do you think you have any credibility of the Israeli’s when you come and talk about Iran’s nuclear program? You’ve been wrong for 26 years.
Danny Ayalon: We are not wrong, some things had happened in between, there were some who prevented Iran to rush for it and there were some, there were some -.
Mehdi Hasan: Come on Danny, every two-to-three years, Netanyahu issued a warning and suddenly something happened to make his warning just inaccurate, how convenient. You’ve been scaremongering for years.
Danny Ayalon: Well I can tell you, I can tell you that you know the Iranian’s themselves say that the international community is sabotaging their programme. So, things have happened.
Mehdi Hasan: OK.
Danny Ayalon: That’s it.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, let me ask you this question, sabotaging their programme, how many nuclear weapons does Iran have, as of today?
Danny Ayalon: Right now, I hope none.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, how many does Israel have?
Danny Ayalon: No idea.
Mehdi Hasan: No idea, you were in the government, they don’t tell you that stuff; who do they tell?
Danny Ayalon: No idea, I’m telling you, I never discussed it, but it’s irrelevant.
Mehdi Hasan: It’s between, you never discussed Israel’s nuclear weapons? You can say that hand on heart you’ve never discussed Israel’s nuclear weapons, you’re expecting us to believe that the deputy foreign minister visited, you never discussed Israel’s nuclear deterrent? Seriously?
Danny Ayalon: No, so let, let me tell you. It’s not all slogans and sound bites -.
Mehdi Hasan: Tell yourself that, my friend.
Danny Ayalon: – I did not discuss Israel nuclear weapons. I did discuss Israel nuclear policy, there is a big difference.
Mehdi Hasan: OK.
Danny Ayalon: OK.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, so now we’ve got past that semantic evasion.
Danny Ayalon: No, no you have to, you -.
Mehdi Hasan: How many nuclear weapons does Israel have? Because experts says it’s anywhere between 80 and 400.
Danny Ayalon: So what? So what?
Mehdi Hasan: “So what”?
Danny Ayalon: Yeah, so what? As Israel ever threatened -.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you recognise the hypocrisy of Israel having a secret illicit nuclear weapons programme that it won’t open up its doors to and won’t talk about and then lecturing everyone else in the region about nuclear weapons?
Danny Ayalon: Absolutely not, do you know why?
Danny Ayalon: So, let’s start with the legal and formal.
Mehdi Hasan: Yeah.
Danny Ayalon: Israel has never been a member, a signatory of the NPT, so we are not breaking any rules. Iran was, Iraq was, Syria is and they all tried to, to cheat, number one. Secondly -.
Mehdi Hasan: But you never recognise the laws in the first place.
Danny Ayalon: No, secondly -.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, quick get-out.
Danny Ayalon: – Israel is the only country in the world who has been, right, threatened to just erase them, there is only one Jewish state in the world, less than one-third of one percent of the entire Middle East. There are 22 Arab countries, 57, what do you want from us? And they are all trying to, to gang up on us.
Mehdi Hasan: It’s not like you’re just minding your own business, this kind of Norway in the Middle East with nuclear weapons.
Danny Ayalon: Has Israel ever threatened to erase and attack any country? No.
Mehdi Hasan: Err, I think you’ll find plenty of pretty genocidal statements from Israeli leaders.
Danny Ayalon: Show, show it to me.
Mehdi Hasan: Shimon Peres said in response to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that we could wipe Iran off the map.
Danny Ayalon: Iran, Iran has every day threatening to erase Israel from the map.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m not talking about Iran, I’m asking about Israel.
Danny Ayalon: Saddam Hussain said he would burn the entire country of Israel, Assad, Hamas, you know what even members of Israeli Knesset Arab countries.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny, I’ll ask again, we’ve gone off on a lovely diversion which you’re the master off, how many nuclear weapons does Israel have?
Danny Ayalon: I don’t know, by the way another diversion which I have to say, I have to say -.
Mehdi Hasan: No, no, you can’t preannounce your diversions. Let me ask again, if an Iranian guest came on my show and I asked them about Iran’s nuclear weapons, “I don’t know I’m not gonna talk about it,” would you be OK with that? You’d be outraged.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, I would be.
Mehdi Hasan: And yet you sit here as a former minister of the Israeli government saying, “Oh I don’t know about nuclear, anyone.”
Danny Ayalon: Because, because there was like 16 United Nation Security Council resolutions against Iran and -.
Mehdi Hasan: And there is against Israel, and there is against Israel, as well.
Danny Ayalon: About the nuclear programme, no.
Mehdi Hasan: Yes, there is, UN resolution 487, let me read it to you, the UN Security Council in 1981 says calls upon Israel urgently to place its nuclear facilities under the safeguards of the IAEA, why haven’t you done that?
Danny Ayalon: I tell you why, because we want to live and survive, this is the only reason, live and survive.
Mehdi Hasan: But you are defying a UN Security Council resolution on your secret nuclear weapons programme.
Danny Ayalon: Live and survive, that’s it.
Mehdi Hasan: Avi Shlaim, when Danny talks about the threat from Iran, do you recognise that language? How big a threat in your view is Iran to Israel today?
Avi Shlaim: Iran is not an existential threat to Israel but it is a strategic threat. Now, let’s compare the records of these two countries, Iran has never attacked a neighbour, Israel has repeatedly attacked its neighbours, Iran signed the non-proliferation treaty, Israel has refused to sign. Iran submits to inspection by the international nuclear energy agency, Israel refuses to submit. Iran has no nuclear weapons, Israel has between 75 and 400 nuclear weapons, so Israel poses an existential threat to Iran.
Avi Shlaim: One more point to make, for the last 40 years Israel has conducted a systematic campaign of disinformation about Iran. Why the lies?, Why the double standards? Why the hypocrisy?
Danny Ayalon: Professor Shlaim, can you say this in a straight face? I cannot believe it, if you look into details Israel, right, has been in existential threat ever since, ever since it’s re-establishment and it was re-established in 1948. As a historian, as an historian, and I’m sure you will agree, Israel only out of self-defence, is defending itself and Israel has never, ever threatened another country.
Avi Shlaim: Israel has attacked its neighbours, not in self-defence, one example, the first one is the Suez War of 1956, it wasn’t a war of self-defence, it was a colonial conspiracy to attack Egypt. Lebanon 1982 was most emphatically not a war of self-defence, it was an invasion, Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
Mehdi Hasan: Paul, let me ask you this question, you’re not a member of the Israeli government, you’ve never been a member of the Israeli government, can I ask you for a straight answer, how many nuclear weapons does Israel have?
Paul Charney: I don’t know, you’re asking me -.
Mehdi Hasan: How many do you think from what you -?
Paul Charney: You know what, I, I tell you what, I’m listening to the conversation with all due respect, we cannot rely, Israel cannot rely on Europe and the Western world to defend its own policies. Israel had huge disagreements in its own government whether to take out the Iraqi nuclear core 1982 and it took it out and it was condemned at the time and Israel have the same dispute late ’90s, ’98 when they took out the Syrian nuclear core and it was condemned by Europe and guess what? Later, the condemnation fizzled away. We are in the same positions we were then as we are with Iran.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you think Israel should have nuclear weapons? Do you support Israeli government?
Paul Charney: Every weapon, possibly a defensive weapon like the iron dome, Israel should have a hundred iron domes which it has -.
Mehdi Hasan: I didn’t ask about the iron domes.
Paul Charney: Israel should have every defensive weapon.
Mehdi Hasan: Do you think Israel should have nuclear weapons?
Paul Charney: Absolute, as a defence, as a defensive weapon, Israel should absolutely have nuclear weapons, Iran as offensive weapon should not have nuclear weapons.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, let’s go, Diana has been waiting very patiently, there’s a difference between offensive Iran and defensive Israel when it comes to nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
Diana Buttu: What I think we’re getting to is that, Israel is saying that it is above the law and it does this time and again, it says that it has the right to attack countries which it did when it came to Iraq, when it’s come to Syria, when it’s come to Lebanon, when it’s come to the Palestinians and it’s also saying that it has no reason, it has no right to be subjected to the law.
Mehdi Hasan: Diana says you’re above the law and you yourself said we didn’t sign the NPT. Let me ask you this question; if Iran tomorrow withdraws from the NPT would you stop talking about Iran? Because they’re in your boat, they can do what you do, right?
Danny Ayalon: No.
Mehdi Hasan: Isn’t that the logic of your position?
Danny Ayalon: No, because they want nuclear capabilities for offensive measures, if Israel, and again I’m not at liberty to say anything, but, about this subject, but if Israel has it or not, it, is a defensive one.
Mehdi Hasan: Completely subjective what defensive -.
Danny Ayalon: And the Palestinians -.
Mehdi Hasan: Because you say it’s defensive, they would say it’s defensive, everyone will get nuclear weapons in way of defence.
Danny Ayalon: By the way, by the way, I hope, I hope Miss Buttu is not suicidal, because if Iran with a nuclear weapon throwing it on Israel, you and I will die at the same time, you know that.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, OK, well, let’s go to the audience who have been waiting very patiently here, in the Oxford Union, Let’s start with the gentleman here in the front row.
Audience participant 1: I would like to ask you, Mr Ayalon, about Israel’s denying access to healthcare for people in Gaza. Last year, according to the World Health Organisation, 54 people died in Gaza because they had not got the treatment they needed to in the West Bank and sometimes beyond. Forty-six of those had cancer, many of them were women. Eleven thousand medical appointments were missed last year after Israel refused to allow people to get to that treatment, is that not unconscionable?
Danny Ayalon: If that had been true, absolutely unconscionable, but it’s completely not true. Israel is, is, actually piping into the, to the Gaza, everything which could help the Shifa and all the other hospitals and clinics, by the way, which the Hamas is using them as a base to launch, you know that since we left, since we left Gaza, 11 thousand, 800 bombs were launched on Israel.
Mehdi Hasan: He asked the question about 44 cancer patients, World Health Organisation figures, that’s all made up according to you?
Danny Ayalon: You know what, I don’t even know, because I, you know I, but I can tell you there is a policy, right, there is a policy to help anyone in need and we have proven it, why don’t you go to Hamas and ask them? Why don’t they stop their terror and then Gaza will be open to the world. When we left in 2005, we invested there, you know millions of dollars, they burnt everything, Why? Why?
Mehdi Hasan: OK, let’s go to this gentleman here in the blue shirt:
Audience participant 2: Thank you, the Great March of Return protests were ostensibly organised in support of the notion of a right of return. My question is, to what extent does the propagation of a notion of Palestinian right of return by the international community served to perpetuate and prolong rather than create a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Danny Ayalon: “Right of Return”, Mehdi Hasan, is a euphemism, there is no right and no return, because you’re talking now about fifth and fourth generation of displaced people and, according to international law, they should have been naturalised by the countries who receive them. There were 20 million refugees in Europe, Czechs, German, Polish, you don’t hear about this problem. There were 890,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, you don’t hear about them. The problem is again, and I do not blame the Palestinian people, I feel for them. It’s successive Palestinian leadership who betrayed you.
Mehdi Hasan: Since you mentioned, since you mentioned Miss Buttu Diana, no right, no return under international law, is that correct from your point of view?
Diana Buttu: There is a right of return, by using his same logic again, then we wouldn’t be talking about as he put it, the re-establishment of a Jewish state. If we’re talking about the re-establishment of a Jewish state, then it would have been that Jews also didn’t have that right as well. So you can’t have it, that one group of people has a right and Palestinians have no right, we absolutely have a right of return and that is enshrined in international law.
Danny Ayalon: This is our land and we re-establish our sovereignty after 2,000 years -.
Mehdi Hasan: This is your land based on 2,000 years, she’s saying why can’t four or five generations, if you can go back 20 generations?
Mehdi Hasan: Let’s go to this lady here in the front row.
Audience participant 3: I’m a Palestinian journalist from Gaza and Israel has time and again said and the Israeli army actually claimed to be measured and surgical in the way that they engage with the Palestinian protesters and whoever is present near the Gaza fence. And then, now I hear, and it’s very concerning to me that the killing of my friend actually and colleague Yasser Murtaja in Gaza was because he was there with an intent to harm. The Israeli army has always cleared itself of any wrong-doing; isn’t it time for an independent investigation? What is Israel afraid of? How is it surgical to kill journalists in press vests and paramedics in white coats and children and peaceful protesters and then not have independent investigators or allow them to investigate?
Danny Ayalon: Well, Israel has nothing to be afraid of. Israel has nothing to hide and, by the way, I really appreciate the fact that you came from Gaza out here, which is fine, which is very nice.
Audience participant 3: Based here, I’ve been here for a couple of years.
Danny Ayalon: I would wish more Gazans would be able to come out -.
Mehdi Hasan: So, why not lift your blockade? You could lift the blockade tomorrow, come on, Danny, you’re patronising people here, come on.
Danny Ayalon: No, you, you need, you need a different leadership in Gaza, that’s what you need with a different leadership in Gaza, more of you could come out.
Mehdi Hasan: Is it time for an independent investigation, if you’ve got nothing to hide?
Danny Ayalon: No, because no country, no democratic country is willing to infringe upon its sovereignty. Show me when England, United States, France or any other country, democratic country allowed an independent investigation.
Mehdi Hasan: None of those countries are apparently illegally occupying people’s land, by the way, just for the factual record. Let’s go back to the back, back there on the window, yes, you waving, can we get a mic there?
Audience participant 4: Yeah, hi, how do you justify or do you support Palestinians being forcibly removed from their homes and thrown out to make way for Israeli settlers?
Danny Ayalon: Fair question, I do not approve Palestinians being forced out of their homes, as I do not approve Jews being forced out of their homes and the Israeli government did both, I can tell you that. But again, there is a rule of law and sometimes if you build things illegally, the government comes and tells you well, it’s illegal, they do it to Jews and they do it to Arabs. Full stop.
Mehdi Hasan: They don’t demolish dozens of houses in one go as collective punishment for any Jewish Israeli’s and you know that. You’re just saying stuff that’s false.
Danny Ayalon: They would do it had they built it illegally and they have done it.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, but they also destroy houses, the families of quote/unquote terrorists are destroyed by Israel. And yet when an Israeli terrorist kills a Palestinian, his family’s home is never destroyed. Funny that.
Danny Ayalon: It’s a matter of deterrence, Jews do not go -.
Mehdi Hasan: Jews don’t need deterrence, only Arabs use deterrence.
Danny Ayalon: Like those terrorists, you know you have one -.
Mehdi Hasan: Wow, did you say there’s no Israeli terrorists, there’s no Jewish terrorists?
Danny Ayalon: There are, but not as a culture.
Mehdi Hasan: Oh, Palestinians is a culture?
Danny Ayalon: Absolutely, absolutely.
Mehdi Hasan: I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna, Diana Buttu I’m gonna ask you to respond to that because you’re from a culture of terror, apparently.
Diana Buttu: This is the problem you are dealing with people who represent, a foreign representative of a government that uses racist language and that has adopted racist language and will continue to use racist language, I can’t believe that we are in anyway -.
Mehdi Hasan: Danny Ayalon, do you want to respond? Do you want to respond and clarify what you meant by culture of terror?
Danny Ayalon: Of course, I want to respond, because if you send your kids to schools where they, where they are taught to kill Jews, when you have summer schools with Palestinian kids go with straps, you know like a make-believe suicide bombs, this is a culture of terror and had you been looking into this, yes -.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, alright and when you, and when you, hold on, listen, I just got to make the point because you love, you love always saying what about this, what about that, let me do it for once. What about Israeli sitting with popcorn on top of their houses watching Gaza being bombarded, is that not a culture of hate, of death?
Danny Ayalon: No.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, lady, lady here who is waiting.
Audience participant 5: Currently, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, approximately 315 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli prisons. While being arrested and held in detention, these children have no access to lawyers, cannot have a family member present while being questioned and often are coerced into signing documents in Hebrew, a language that they do not understand. How do you justify continuing imprisonment of children?
Danny Ayalon: First of all, I do not agree, people who are over 16 are not children and when they come with daggers and bombs, they are not innocent.
Mehdi Hasan: There are children under 16 being detained by Israel and you know that, Danny.
Danny Ayalon: You know what, when the IRA was attacking you, when the IRA was attacking you in London they were under 14 aged in British prisons.
Mehdi Hasan: And you expect me to sit here and defend the British government’s treatment of the Irish community? Maybe if they’d read anything I’ve written.
Danny Ayalon: No, I’m just saying, a killer is a killer is a killer.
Mehdi Hasan: Two wrongs don’t make a right, but OK, let’s go -.
Danny Ayalon: A killer is a killer.
Mehdi Hasan: “A killer is a killer”; she literally told you about children in jail and your response is “a killer is a killer,” none of those children are killers, but OK -. Let’s go back to the audience, the lady here in the black shirt, yes, wait for the microphone to come to you.
Audience participant 6: I’m very confused about something and I’d like some clarity, if Israel is an apartheid state, how come there are Christians, which I really appreciate – being a Christian, serving in the IDF and Bedouin and also Druze, I’m not talking about Jews I’m talking about the Druze, how does that work?
Mehdi Hasan: The two people who made the claim about apartheid are Diana and Avi Shlaim. Would one of you like to respond to the lady’s question about how can it be apartheid if there are Christians and Arabs and Bedouins serving in the IDF, in the Israeli military?
Diana Buttu: The question is whether the system is apartheid and it is an apartheid state and the fact that we are sitting here and while we’re sitting here, Danny has greater privileges in that country than I do, makes it an apartheid state.
Mehdi Hasan: We’re gonna go back to the audience, gentleman there with the jacket, yes?
Audience participant 7: The question is very simple, do you think the days where everything Israel does and everything it says by both the Muslim community and many other people are coming to an end where, in fact, there’s gonna be greater support for Israel as we’re seeing even now in the United Nations? Thank you.
Danny Ayalon: Thank you, well I, I would say that, certainly, we see shifting grounds, I would say most of the Arab countries today, certainly all them great Muslim countries, see Israel as the solution to the problems and not the problem. They see the Palestinians as the problem.
Mehdi Hasan: Gentleman in the beard who has been waiting for ages, last word -.
Audience participant 8: Thank you, Mehdi Hasan, my question to Danny, isn’t it true that the two-state solution is dead because of Israeli illegal settlements in West Bank and its apartheid walls because Israel always blames the other side and doesn’t take any responsibility, so should we just forget about the two-state solution and think about an alternative or one-state solution? Thank you.
Danny Ayalon: I, for one, do not think so, I do not think so, I think -.
Mehdi Hasan: You think there can still be a two-state solution?
Danny Ayalon: I think, I hope so, I think what killed the two-state solution is, again, the Arab refusals for any compromise, for them it’s all or nothing and secondly, when the road map to peace came, I was one who was privileged to, to be a part of writing it, it talked about two states for two peoples, I do not see the Palestinians who talk about two peoples, they’re talking about two states, what does it mean, two Arab states? The problem is again, I’m telling you -.
Mehdi Hasan: Hold on, you want two states for two peoples? Who are the two peoples?
Danny Ayalon: Jewish people and Palestinian people.
Mehdi Hasan: There shouldn’t be any Palestinian’s in Israel, is what you’re saying.
Danny Ayalon: Of course not, no, of course, they are -.
Mehdi Hasan: You literally just said two states for two people, I asked you to clarify.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, but the Jewish, Israel -.
Mehdi Hasan: Who is Israel for Danny?
Danny Ayalon: Israel is for citizens, mostly are Jews, because it’s a Jewish state…
Mehdi Hasan: You’re the one who said you wanted two states for two people, I was just clarifying, let me ask you -.
Danny Ayalon: Of course, Palestinians and Israeli’s, Palestinians and -.
Mehdi Hasan: Oh, before you said Jews, now you switched to Israeli, good, good move.
Danny Ayalon: No, no, no, Jews and doesn’t mean that non-Jews cannot live there.
Mehdi Hasan: Can I ask a final question? I just want to ask a question about you. Ehud Barak famously was asked, what would he have done if you’d been born a Palestinian? And he said to the reporter, “I probably would have joined a Palestinian military group to fight against Israel for my freedom.” Right, that’s what Barak said, a moment of honesty from Israel’s most-decorated soldier. I just wonder sometimes, do enough Israelis put themselves in the shoes of Palestinians living in Gaza and try and understand why it is that they’re protesting or they’re frustrated or they’re violent or is it all just, do you really just say, “Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas,” and not think about what they’re going through?
Danny Ayalon: The short answer is, yes, I can definitely do that and you know what I would do? I would do my best to get rid of Hamas leaders and terrorists.
Mehdi Hasan: OK, on that Hamas note, Danny, we’re going to have to leave it there, wrap the show up. Thanks to our audience here in the Oxford Union, thanks to our panel here in the Oxford Union, and thanks to Danny Ayalon for joining us. Head to Head will be back next week.