University Closes Doors on "Israel Apartheid Week"
A French university, Paris Sorbonne No.8, will be closing its doors for two days in an attempt to prevent “Israel Apartheid Week” events from taking place on campus grounds.
The president of the university, Pascal Binczak, decided to close its doors for two days, as a result of a conference entitled “Israel: an Apartheid State?” that purportedly aims to discuss new "social, historical and legal methods of internationally boycotting Israel."
Binczak’s decision to close the university on Monday and Tuesday received the backing of the French courts. Anti-Israel activists have said, however, that they will nonetheless hold the event by force. In response to charges by the 'activists' that not allowing the event will impair 'academic freedom,' the university has said that there is no academic freedom at an event where the other side cannot respond, Israel Radio reported.
While the anti-Israeli group did originally receive permission to hold the event, the university withdrew the decision due to the event’s “highly polemic nature” and likelihood to cause “disturbances to public order.”
The university suggested, however, that while the event cannot be held on campus grounds, the group can host the event in another location.
The group filed a petition to the administrative court in an attempt to override president Binczak's decision, but the court rejected the request.
The group stated: "Is it no longer possible to exercise freedom of speech in French universities in relation to the field of the politics of Israel and Palestine? The cancellation of the upcoming conference is a clear demonstration of how the management of a public academic institution will yield to the injunctions and threats from a corpus that presents itself as the voice of the entire Jewish community in France but is in reality a mouthpiece for the Israeli embassy."
Binczak published an article in the French newspaper Le Monde defending his decision. He cited a recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents on campus including graffiti and other defacements linking the Jewish Star of David to a Nazi swastika. He said such instances and the hostile and biased tone of the event were cause for concern and reason to close university grounds. He said that the group was taking advantage of academic freedom.