On 26 April Israel’s new Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, spoke at the Oxford Union. Three days later I sent a 300-word letter to The Oxford Times about his speech, and a street protest against him that was held outside the building.
Any newspaper has the right to edit letters. In addition The Oxford Times sets a limit of 300 words. I write lots of letters to the paper,. Usually they are on other subjects, and nearly always The Oxford Times publishes them in full.
On 5 May the paper published some of my letter about Ambassador Regev. Unusually it had been edited to less than half its length. The choice of which sentences to deleted robbed the letter of all of its evidence and much of its force.
Below is the full letter as I sent it. In [brackets and italics] are the sentences that The Oxford Times deleted. Draw your own conclusions!
MARK REGEV’S APPEARANCE AT THE OXFORD UNION WAS NOT BALANCED
Thankyou everyone from Oxford University Palestine Society and Oxford Palestine Solidarity Campaign who, at scant notice, protested outside the Oxford Union on 26 April.
The Union had invited Mark Regev, Israel’s new London ambassador, to speak. Regev was spokesman for Israel’s defence ministry during its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. [He notoriously defended Israel’s massacres of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza in 2008–09, 2012 and 2014.
In 2008–09 Regev claimed Israel’s use of white phosphorus in the Gaza massacres didn’t break international law. He defended Israel bombarding hospitals, schools, homes, mosques, churches and a UNWRA aid store. He claimed Hamas kept weapons in mosques and carried them in ambulances. After the 2008–09 massacres the UN Goldstone report found no evidence for Israel’s claims, but accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.]
The Oxford Union holds debates between high-calibre speakers. It could have invited Regev and a seconder to debate against equal opponents. A Palestinian advocate such as Hanan Ashrawi or liberal Israeli such as historian Professor Ilan Pappé of Exeter University would have been suitable. Or Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow, who knows the Middle East and lives in Oxford.
Instead the Union let Regev address an audience and then answer questions. [Few students, however bright, can match Regev’s experience, guile and cold cunning.] The Union treated previous Israeli ambassadors the same: Daniel Taub in 2014 and Ron Prosor in 2010. Each got off lightly.
[Regev told his audience only anarchists or Marxists distinguish between criticism of Zionism and prejudice against Jews. He claimed to support a two-state settlement! In fact his government keeps seizing Palestinian land and pouring illegal settlers into East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Online the Union repeated Regev’s propaganda but no audience criticism. It betrayed the interests of Israelis, Palestinians and students.]