High Court Probing Anti-Israel Event Cancellation

University maintains it cancelled conference over health and safety concerns, but organizers say it bowed to pressure from 'Israeli lobby.'

Cynthia Blank,

PLO flags in London (file)
PLO flags in London (file)
Reuters

London's High Court will examine the legality of the University of Southampton's cancellation of a conference challenging Israel's right to exist, the Southern Daily Echo reported Saturday. 

Entitled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism," the conference aimed "to explore the relatedness of the suffering and injustice in Palestine to the foundation and protection of a state" of Israel's nature, its website says. 

The University of Southampton scrapped the three-day conference after it received harsh criticism and protests from the British Jewish community and even a number of politicians. 

"The University should reconsider its sponsorship of a debate that will simply further polarize the academic and public debate on this complex issue," Conservative MP Mark Hoban wrote to the university's vice chancellor prior to the event's cancellation. 

The British university, whose law school was sponsoring the event, said it canceled due to health and safety concerns, according to the Guardian's Tuesday report. 

But organizers of the event, which include Israeli Professor Oren Ben-Dor, said local police were certain would be able to contain any protests and ensure full security. 

Thus, they argue, the university's decision to cancel was "taken under public pressure of the Israeli Lobby," and as such, free speech was being curtailed. 

Other University of Southampton professors reacted angrily to the news too, with David Gurnham, the director of research for the university's law school, urging the vice chancellor to reconsider the decision to cancel. 

“Canceling the event in this way makes the university look weak, spineless and reactionary. I am proud to be a member of academic staff here, but your decision to withdraw support for a conference in this manner makes me, and I’m sure very many others like me, seriously question the university’s commitment to open and free debate,” he wrote. 




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