A student who spoke out in Arabic during protests against a speech by an Israeli minister at the Oxford Union has denied he called out the words: "Slaughter the Jews".
A statement issued by the office of Israel's deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, on Wednesday said that a student protester had uttered the words in question as Mr Ayalon faced protests over his appearance at the Union on Monday night.
But the Oxford Student newspaper yesterday quoted second year St Edmund Hall student Noor Rashid as saying he was in fact using the words of a classical Arabic chant commemorating a seventh-century battle between Arabs and Jews at Khayber, in the Arabian Peninsula.
The statement from Mr Ayalon's office maintained that a student had called out "Itbah Al Yahud" which translates as a call to slaughter Jews.
But Mr Rashid said that he had in fact said: "Khaybar ya Yahod." A Jewish Chronicle report yesterday said this referred to a seventh century attack by the Prophet Mohammed on the Jewish community in Khaybar in which the Jews were defeated and made to pay half their income to the Muslim victors.
Mr Rashid told Oxford Student: "My version went: 'Khaybar, O Jews, we will win'. This is in classical, Qur’anic Arabic and I doubt that apart from picking up on the word 'Jew', that even the Arabic speakers in the room would have understood the phrase.
"As you can see, I made no reference to killing Jews." he said, adding that 'Jew' and 'Israel' were interchangeable terms. Mr Rashid said the remark carried "absolutely no derogatory or secondary meanings."
Mr Rashid told the paper he may have been misunderstood: "There was a great deal of confusion and several people were shouting at the same time so I do acknowledge that people may have misheard me and assume that I uttered something else - namely to 'slaughter the Jews' which is something that I do not believe.
"I express the deepest regret if my remarks were misunderstood or misheard to mean anything that even comes close to encouraging the slaughter of innocents. I will be writing letters to all my Jewish friends to express my sincere apologies, and also to clarify my remarks."
A statement by the Oxford Union earlier this week said it had launched an investigation, decried the protests and said: "One individual in particular appears to have made a directly anti-Semitic remark."
Mr Ayalon's spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment last night.