Before the University of Southampton’s conference on Israel and international law was cancelled/postponed, a petition was set up insisting that this controversial topic was a legitimate subject for discussion and debate.
We affirm, as academics from various disciplines and institutions of higher education, that the themes of the conference, such as the relationship of international law to the historic and ongoing political violence in Palestine/Israel, and critical reflections on nationality and self-determination, are entirely legitimate subjects for debate and inquiry.We are very concerned that partisan attempts are being made to silence dissenting analyses of the topic in question.
Many who disliked the conference’s stance still supported its right to go ahead, and cautioned against an illiberal or counterproductive overreaction. Ben Gidley, for example, argued that we should challenge opposing views, not seek to ban them.
I am sure that I would strongly disagree with the views expressed by many of the speakers at the conference. It may be that some speakers may contribute to a climate in which antisemitism is not taken seriously. These positions, however, should be challenged through argument, and not by banning an event.
I agree with this evaluation of the conference. However, the spotlight on Southampton made many look more closely at the views of one of the conference organisers, Oren Ben-Dor. I would be interested to know how those who supported the agenda of the conference (not simply its right to go ahead) respond to his published views on ‘Zionism, Anti-Zionism and the Jewish Prison’. You can read my own response to this abhorrent piece here on Fathom.