U.K. University Cancels Conference Debating Israel's Right to Exist

Conference organizers accuse the University of Southampton of giving in to pressure and violating the principle of free speech.

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Entrance sign at the University of Southampton.
Entrance sign at the University of Southampton.Credit: Screenshot

A conference on Israel's right to exist has been cancelled by the University of Southampton due to health and safety concerns, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.

News of the cancellation by the university, which was due to host the event, was announced by one of the organizers, law and philosophy professor Oren Ben-Dor, a former Israeli.

The university acknowledged that it was considering cancelling the event but said no final decision had been taken.

Ben-Dor accused the university of bowing to pressure at the expense of free speech. “It’s clear that security is a fig-leaf to stop the conference," he said. "It’s ridiculous to say they cannot ensure the safety of the participants.”

Due to take place in May, the conference was promoted as a unique event "because it concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish state of Israel.”

Critics, however, denounced it as one-sided. A petition opposing it, sponsored by the United Kingdom Zionist Federation, garnered over 6,400 signatures.

It was also condemned by the Jewish Board of Deputies, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and several members of parliament.

Ben-Dor, who organised the conference with Prof George Bisharat, from University of California Hastings College of the Law and Southampton University engineering professor Suleiman Sharkh, said the organizers were considering legal action against the university but would also consider finding an alternative venue.

About 150 people had signed up to attend, though Ben-Dor said he was expecting up to 300.

Several pro-Israel academics had been invited to speak at the conference but had declined, he said.

According to an online petition against the cancellation, "To cancel the conference on such grounds shows weakness in the face of external pressure and bullying, and calls into question the University of Southampton's commitment not only to academia and the professional activities of its own scholars, but also to the precious tradition of free speech itself."

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN


Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott