This depressing subject has been covered extensively on this blog and elsewhere yet it never seems to go away. On the contrary, it seems to get worse from year to year, especially around the time of “Israel Apartheid Week” which mysteriously extends for a month or more. This year is unfortunately no exception.
Here are just a couple of the latest outrageous incidents from British universities in which Israel and/or Jews were singled out for condemnation and boycott. I’ll leave overseas universities for another post.
Southampton University has announced it will be holding a 3-day symposium to discuss Israel’s very legitimacy. Note: they are not planning to discuss the “occupation” which would be bad enough, but the basis of the legitimacy of Israel’s very existence!
The University of Southampton plans to hold a three-day symposium titled International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism in April.
The University’s website describes the conference as “the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine”.
It should be noted that the phrase “historic Palestine” is code for the entire state of Israel. In other words, Pro-Palestinian activists do not accept the very existence of the State of Israel and insist that the entire country belongs to the Palestinians (who did not exist as a separate nation in 1948).
It added: “It is unique because it concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel.
“Rather than focusing on Israeli actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference will focus on exploring themes of Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism; all of which are posed by Israel’s very nature.”
But the event has caused outrage, ex-Treasury minister and MP for Fareham, Mark Hoban, has written to the university’s Vice Chancellor Professor Don Nutbeam to express his concern and has dubbed the conference “provocative” and “unhelpful.”
He described the conference as a “hard-line, one-sided forum questioning and delegitimising the existence of a democratic state”.
It is gratifying to note the intervention of Mark Hoban, MP for Fareham, in protest at the planned symposium, although it has not had the desired effect.
The Jewish News adds:
Event literature says the subject is a “marginalised debate” needing a “legal analysis of the manner by which the State of Israel came into existence as well as what kind of state it is”.
Tory peer Lord Leigh said: “It is very disappointing that a distinguished university like Southampton has organised this conference. They have never held a conference questioning the right of existence of any other country.”
Organised by Prof. Oren Ben-Dor, a former Israeli who has previously called Israel an “arrogant self-righteous Zionist entity,” the event promises “public debate without partisanship.”
However this was in doubt after the discussion of Israel was framed in the context of “other unjust regimes” and “other states established as a consequence of extreme violence towards indigenous populations”.
Despite opposition from Jewish community leaders – several of whom have lodged protests with the university’s vice-chancellor – organisers have pressed ahead with the convention on 17-19 April, saying they hope it will “serve as a platform for scholarly debates rather than positing an activist aim”.
The fact that this symposium is being organized by an ex-Israeli makes this all the more outrageous and dangerous. As an Israeli and a Jew, however alienated, he gives legitimate cover to accusations of anti-Israel bigotry and anti-Jewish racism, although it must be stressed that Jews often make the worst anti-Semites.
Further protest has been issued from the British Government by the Communities Minister Eric Pickles, but again to no avail:
Eric Pickles has warned Southampton University against “allowing a one-sided diatribe” as the become the most senior politician yet to intervene in the growing row over a major conference into the legitimacy of Israel.
The Communities Secretary’s comments come as a senior Jewish leader called for the event, hosted by the institution’s law school, to be reconstructed or cancelled.
Among the speakers will be Princeton professor Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur, who has in the past faced widespread condemnation over his comments on the Middle East, including his suggestion in 2013 that Israel had “genocidal” intentions” towards the Palestinians.
Pickles told the Jewish News: “Freedom of speech within the law is a long-standing British liberty, but all rights should be exercised with social responsibility, and freedom of speech should go hand in hand with recognising and supporting people’s right to freedom of religion.
“There is a careful line between legitimate academic debate on international law and the actions of governments, and the far-left’s bashing of Israel which often descends into naked anti-Semitism.
“Given the taxpayer-funded University has a legal duty to uphold freedom of speech, I would hope that they are taking steps to give a platform to all sides of the debate, rather than allowing a one-sided diatribe.”
Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush will head a delegation to meet the university’s vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam next week.
Maybe the Sussex Friends of Israel will have more success in their attempt to cancel this bigoted symposium than all the other politicians and activists. Check out their Facebook page for updates:
Tim Stanley in the Daily Telegraph thinks that the conference should go ahead – but only under certain conditions (which of course are not going to be met):
1. It is true that Israel was a state created where no such state had existed before. But so was Iraq, Syria, Uganda and Togo. […] Why, pray, does no one debate the legal foundations of the existence of Nigeria? […]
2. It is true that Israel’s foundation involved the displacement of a settled people.[…] But they are not unique. When the states of India and Pakistan were created, their subjects trekked across the subcontinent to resettle in one country or another – causing the deaths of thousands and wars for decades to come. […]
3. It is true that Israel’s contemporary borders were framed by conflict and remain controversial. […] But where is the conference questioning the legality of North Korea’s existence and condemning its terrorist attacks on the South? […]
In short, what is it about Israel that makes people debate its “legality” so much more often than they do that of other states? Why is it held to such an impossible standard? Why do its critics regard it as unique among newborn states struggling to survive?
We all know the answer to that question. It begins with A and ends with m and has “ntisemitis” in the middle.
Commentary Magazine calls the symposium “three days of hate“:
Of course, the whole undertaking is not only profoundly offensive; it is also utterly absurd. The conference is being hosted by the college’s law faculty, and claims that it will be exploring the question of Israel’s right to exist with regard to international law. But as Israel is one of the few states in the world that was actually established by specific instructions by both the League of Nations and the United Nations, there are simply no plausible grounds for inquiry here.
It comes as no surprise then to discover that one of the key speakers billed to appear at this event is Richard Falk. This is a man who is a notorious 9/11 truther, who has likened the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, and who has used his personal blog to promote anti-Semitic cartoons and conspiracies. That Falk has issued a stream of anti-Semitic comments is not only the opinion of groups such as the ADL; even the British mission to the UN has explicitly called Falk out for his anti-Semitism.
The attendance of Richard Falk, astonishing as it is, becomes less surprising once one takes a look at who the conference’s primary organizer is. Southampton’s Professor Oren Ben-Dor—who is behind this conference—is not simply an ex-Israeli wildly hostile to his own country of origin; he is also a defender of Gilad Atzmon, a known anti-Semite. That fact alone ought to be enough to set the conference far beyond the realms of credibility.
As crazy as this whole affair is, it is important to stress that this does matter and should be taken very seriously. […] But rather, it is important because events like this one must not be allowed to become accepted as a normal part of the academic scene.
The conference boasts of being the “first of its kind,” ”ground-breaking,” and “historic.” No doubt it is the first of its kind, but the activist academics behind it also hope that it will not be the last. We must disappoint them. As it is, one or two genuinely pro-Israel speakers do appear to have accepted the invitation to attend, no doubt with the best intentions of fighting the good fight. But there are occasions when it is better just to not give these things the veneer of acceptability.
Denying that very “veneer of acceptability” UK Media Watch (formerly CiFWatch) has produced a very clever spoof of the Southampton obscenity, “How to be openly antisemitic in England”. The trouble is it is so close to the the truth that the satire is barely detectable. Here is just one screen shot but check it out in its entirety.
The indefatigable Richard Millett, who documents antisemitism on campus and elsewhere in the UK, posted about a similar debate which took place in February at SOAS (the School for Oriental and African Studies) which called for the end of Israel during a vote on a boycott of Israel:
The panel was a mixture of SOAS staff and students. Each panelist made a submission as to whether or not there should be an academic boycott of Israel. Contributions from the audience were then taken. About 250 people attended.
Three panelists argued for an academic boycott and three argued against. However, the latter three didn’t argue against on the basis that a boycott is obviously discriminatory and racist. Instead, they argued that it would merely be “ineffective”.
That said the latter are at a university where the societies and staff have become increasingly hostile to the Jewish state over recent years. The London Middle East Institute and the Centre for Palestine Studies (both based at SOAS) and the SOAS Palestine Society churn out sickening anti-Israel propaganda on an almost daily basis.
The vote is totally undemocratic as well as being racist. The boycotters have learnt well from the likes of Ayatollah Khamenei and President Assad when it comes to propaganda.
First, the vote is taking place during so-called “Israeli Apartheid Week” with a fake “Apartheid Wall” and fake guns (all courtesy of War On Want) being pointed outside SOAS (see photos below).
Second, the financing of the boycott campaign is immense with thousands of paid-for leaflets and hundreds of posters and T-shirts.
Third, the SOAS Jewish Society was denied any representation on last night’s panel.
The vote is non-binding and so the result will have to be put before SOAS management who must then decide whether to implement a racist and targeted boycott of innocent Israeli academics.
I suspect that British law will not allow that. However, if I am wrong then all bets are off for freedom of speech as well as British Jews.
Taking all the above into account together with the execrable George Galloway and his fellow travelers, the UK is not a happy place to be for pro-Israel activists or simply for Zionist Jews.