U.K. Conference Questions Legality of Israel's Existence

MP Mark Hoban calls on University of Southampton to reconsider hosting 'provocative' and 'one-sided' event.

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A screen shot of the conference website.Credit: www.southampton.ac.uk

England's University of Southampton is hosting a conference next month questioning the legality of the State of Israel, an event that Conservative MP Mark Hoban called "provocative" and "one-sided."

"While I fully support the principles of freedom of speech and the right to question, I find it concerning that an institution as respected as the University of Southampton should host a hard-line, one-sided forum questioning and delegitimising the existence of a democratic state," Hoban, a former U.K. government minister who represents the southeastern English town of Fareham, wrote in a letter to the university's vice chancellor, Don Nutbeam.

"Whatever ones thoughts on the actions of its Government, the State of Israel stands as the only democracy in a region blighted by political, religious and social persecution," he added.

Hoban also called on the university to reconsider whether it will sponsor the conference, which is scheduled to take place April 17-19.

"The University should reconsider its sponsorship of a debate that will simply further polarise the academic and public debate on this complex issue," Hoban wrote. "Surely, such a highly-regarded academic institution should seek to avoid such provocative and unhelpful activities."

The conference at the University of Southampton Law School, which is scheduled to take place April 17-19, will focus on issues surrounding the State of Israel's legitimacy in international law and marks "a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine."

Called "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism," the conference "aims to explore the relatedness of the suffering and injustice in Palestine to the foundation and protection of a state of such nature," its organizers say on the conference website.