One of Israel's most decorated military leaders, Ami Ayalon, has warned the Zionist state of the direction its heading during the closing sessions of the 2020 Limmud.
Prominent figures, including Labour leader Kier Starmer, spoke at the Jewish learning festival during the Christmas break on a number of issues including the controversial International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.
Ayalon is the former director of the Israeli internal security service, Shin Bet. His new book, Friendly Fire, is a powerful personal testimony and an urgent call for Israel to change direction in order to achieve relative peace and security. During his session, the former commander of the navy spoke about "how Israel became its own worst enemy."
"Israel is the state of the Jewish people, and we Israelis do not have the right to destroy it," Ayalon is reported saying in the Jewish Chronicle to the nearly 400 people viewing the Limmud session on Zoom. "You [in the diaspora] have a duty to tell us what you see."
Speaking about the occupied territory where critics have long maintained that Israel has imposed an apartheid regime, Ayalon said:
In the West Bank, we are not a democracy. We have two different legal systems, one for the Jews and one for the Palestinians, this is not a democracy and we are deceiving ourselves.
Ayalon was also critical of the Zionist narrative about the takeover of Palestine. "We have to change the narrative which enabled us to create the state of Israel," he urged, while discussing how the occupation state can preserve its status as a democracy.
Recounting a conversation about his ancestry with the Palestinian leader Sari Nusseibeh who became a close friend, Ayalon said that unlike the Palestinian professor he was unable to provide a family tree. "We are a generation without grandparents," he told Nusseibeh.
For his part, Nusseibeh explained how his family goes back to 7th century Jerusalem, not least as keepers of the keys of the Holy Sepulchre Church in the capital.
Ayalon's stark message was that "Jews in the diaspora pay the price for what we do in Israel."