Dear Director – We are shocked, and indeed appalled, both by the invitation to Daniel Ayalon to speak at the School and the official imprimateur that has been given to the event.
Daniel Ayalon is a member of the Yisrael Beitenou party, one of the more extreme parties in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right-wing government. The founder and leader of that party, Avigdor Lieberman, is also the Foreign Minister. Even before the election of the new government, the Jerusalem Post (23 December 2008) saw Ayalon’s role as “explaining and justifying his [Lieberman’s] diplomatic plans to the world in a way that only a respected, seasoned diplomat can”.
What are those policies? They are to divide the country on demographic lines by a ‘land swap’, retaining the West Bank and its Jewish settlements within Israel in exchange for areas of Israel heavily populated by Arabs. The aim is to make Israel a viable ethnically-defined state. According to the Times, Lieberman is widely regarded as “an Arab-hating racist”, noted for “storming to power on the back of his anti-Arab rhetoric” (The Times, 17 March 2009).
Ayalon himself says he finds Yisrael Beitenou “a natural home for me”, based on “really deep belief” (Jerusalem Post, as before). Some evidence for this can be found in his service as a member of the Executive Board of the Ariel ‘University Center’. This Israeli educational establishment has been set up on the occupied West Bank in clear violation of the Geneva Protocols.
None of this would be a reason for denying Mr. Ayalon the right to speak at LSE. What we object to is the extraordinary prominence given to a talk by this minor functionary in a deeply disreputable government. We find it hard to understand why at any time this event would be thought worthy of a special email to all staff and students, a quite rare accolade. At this particular point in history it seems a bizarre aberration. We are still in the year of Gaza, when over 1300 Gazans with no effective defence were killed in a merciless assault by the Israeli Defense Forces. We are still in the same month that the Goldstone Report – with its finding that Israel could face war crimes charges for these actions – was accepted by the UN Human Rights Council. Is the LSE planning to give equal time, security protection, and publicity to a junior member of the other party at issue in the Goldstone Report, namely Hamas?
We call on the School authorities to explain their rationale for providing Mr Ayalon and the Israeli government with this high profile airtime, and for the meeting chair to clearly dissociate the School from the Israeli Occupation and the assault on Gaza.
Signed by (as of 1st November):
Gautam Appa, Professor of Operational Research, Head of the Operational Research Group, Department of Management; Dr Robert Boyce, Senior Lecturer, International History Department; Dr John Chalcraft, Reader in Empire/Imperialism, Government Department; Dr Sharad Chari, Lecturer, Department of Geography and Environment; Mike Cushman, Information and Communications Manager, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management; Stephan Feuchtwang, Professor, Department of Anthropology; Paul Gilroy, Anthony Giddens Professor of Social Theory, Department of Sociology; Dr Clare Hemmings, Reader in Feminist Theory, Director, LSE Gender Institute; Ailsa Land, Emeritus Professor, Operational Research Group, Department of Management; Frank Land, Emeritus Professor, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management; Dr Chun Lin, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Government Department; Dr Claire Moon, Department of Sociology and Centre for the Study of Human Rights; Martha Mundy, Professor, Department of Anthropology; Jonathan Rosenhead, Emeritus Professor, Operational Research Group, Department of Management; Andrew Sanchez, LSE Fellow, Department of Anthropology; John Sidel, Sir Patrick Gillam Chair in International and Comparative Politics, Government and International Relations Departments; Dr Maha Shaikh, Research Officer, Information Systems and Innovation Group, Department of Management; Dr Tony Whelan, Quantitative Study Advisor, Teaching and Learning Centre; and 1 other member of staff.
Gustavo Barbosa, Amélie Barras, Francesca Biancani, Irene Calis, Elizabeth Frantz, Catherine Furberg-Moe, Omar el-Khairy, Kerstin Klein, Rui Lopes, Dina Makram-Ebeid, Nisrine Mansour, Alia Mossallam, Hakem al-Rustom, Vlad Unkovski-Korica, Sarah Williams, and Mohamed Zaki.
Dear Director – I am writing – belatedly – to support the requests of many colleagues for you to clarify the circumstances surrounding the invitation to Mr. Ayalon.
Just under two weeks ago (22 October), we (apparently the entire LSE Staff and Student list) received from the Events Office an invitation to a “newly arranged” lecture by Mr. Daniel Ayalon, the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. But who “arranged” this lecture, and why? Was Ayalon invited by the School and if not, has the School started investigations to identify who might have hijacked our internal mailing system and fraudulently presented the invitation as “official”? Whoever is involved must have known that the event would be more than “controversial,” (which is fine for a university) but actually morally outrageous? Anyone with access to Google would know (a) that Mr. Ayalon’s visit to London is part of an openly recognised (and perfectly legitimate) exercise by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to counteract the damage to Israel’s image by the findings of a UN investigation (the “Goldstone Report”) into the recent assault on Gaza; and (b) that Mr. Ayalon is a prominent member of the extremist Israeli political movement Yisrael Beitenou which is avowedly racist (and is seen as particularly offensive by our “Israeli Arab” students).
The question is straightforward: who is responsible for inviting Mr. Ayalon and/or organising this event? Needless to say, I am looking not for a personal answer, but an answer available to the whole LSE community.
Emeritus Professor of Sociology