Wednesday, 10 February 2010

‘Itbah Al-Yahud’ or ‘Khaybar ya Yahod’ – what was actually said?

In a previous post I gave my account of the abuse levelled at Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, when he spoke at the Oxford Union. As has been widely reported, one student stormed out the room shouting in Arabic and, according to Ayalon, had said ‘itbah Al-Yahud’, meaning ‘Kill the Jews’.

Since then one person has commented on my post to contest the translation:

“The protester said that in Arabic which I know better than Ayalon, I guess (being Arabic, how surprising, we do exist in Oxford!!!)The guy didn’t say kill the Jews he said: Khybar khaybar ya yahod, and I will leave it to your common sense to search and find what it means”

So I did just that – and, if what I have gleaned about that Arabic phrase is correct, then what he said would still qualify as incitement to religious / racial hatred.

Khaybar was an Oasis not far from medina that was inhabited by Jews before being conquered by Muhammed in the 7th Century. It's Jewish inhabitants were later expelled by the Caliph Umar. According to its Wikipedia entry, the phrase ‘Khybar khaybar ya yahod’, that the protestor allegedly said, is the start of a chant that translates as:

“Khaybar, Khaybar o Jews, the army of Muhammad will return"

Well that still sounds like incitement to me - especially when shouted aggressively in a room with many Jews.

Now whether the protestor actually said ‘itbah al-yahud’ – ‘kill the Jews’ – as Ayalon heard and translated at the talk (without anyone challenging his translation at the time) or the protestor said ‘Khaybar ya-Yahud’, as has since been claimed, can only and will hopefully be established from the footage of the evening.

But in the meantime it should be obvious that whichever he said, his outburst was incendiary and anti-semitic. It should be treated as such by the Union.


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  2. I have not heard Ayalon quoting Itbah Al-Yahud. He translated from Arabic to English that the shout meant kill the Jews. As you rightly say, it matter not if he it was shouted in one form or the other, the meaning is absolutely the same.

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