This University of Southampton conference against Israel is anti-Semitic.
It is difficult to define anti-Semitism, and frankly, just because someone is ranting against someone Jewish or using animated language to describe Israel it doesn’t make them an anti-Semite.
As a moderate I tend to hurl abuse many ways, and there are millions of Israelis walking around cursing their government or the opposition and hardly any anti-Semites amongst them. The defenders of the conference are quick to use this argument to bat away criticism – “Everyone knows that Jews think all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic”. But this conference wildly oversteps the mark – and here is why.
Firstly it is easy to see indications of malicious intent. There are two organisers, both venomous in their opposition to Israel. Both of these men are politically and publicly active in their goal of bringing an end to the existence of Israel.
Then, we can focus on the negative discursive position within the title, advertising and call for papers, as highlighted previously by Amanda Perl. This has insidious repercussions that infest and corrupt any attempt to redress the inherent bias in the panelists and may have fooled the university into agreeing to host this conference. No pro-Israeli academic would respond to this call for papers, it is, in non-academic terms, advertising itself as a kangaroo court. Therein lies the ‘con’; it becomes possible to claim that the bias of the panelists has been created by the refusal of pro-Israeli academics to contribute; can be shown that academics from all sides were originally invited; and possible to argue that attempts to cancel this conference are against free speech and legitimate criticism of Israel. None of this is true. It also means that the organisers can now support these claims, by actively running around inviting further academics they know will not come in an attempt to appease. It is hard to believe the university is so naive as to be unable to decipher the advertising and calculate the effect; it certainly cannot suggest it has many doubts about the motives of the organisers.
Then attention turns to the panellists themselves. As listed previously, this list has outdone itself with its poisonous nature. Rarely have such a one-sided and venomous anti-Israeli group met together outside of a Hamas or Islamic Jihad meeting. No sane man would stand before judgement with a jury such as this and no intelligent person would take note of its findings.
Just as it is true that not all criticism of the Jewish state is anti-Semitism, it follows that some criticism of Israel has to be. No-one can claim they know for sure which, if any of the panelists are anti-Semites, but it would be surprising if anti-Semitic academics wouldn’t gravitate towards a conference with a stated aim of de-legitimizing the world’s only Jewish state. True too that many of the writings and speeches of some of these academics are questionable, with the main organiser himself claiming that
Jewish being? Jewish thinking? And that in an article written in support of a man who has apparently said
Without argument if you were to substitute the word ‘Zionist’ from the tales of conspiracies that invades so many of these panelists’ mutterings with the word ‘Jew’, we would be transported directly back to 1930’s Germany.
So of this conference we know there is an inherent bias, we know that this bias was deliberate and without targeting specifics we know that ‘Zionist’ is a convenient cover for the word Jew. So what are the stated aims of this conference so carefully put together by academics who openly call for the destruction of Israel?
Aim 1 Debate the issues
Debunked. You cannot have a debate without an opposing argument. You most certainly would not inherently create in the question such a bias as to discourage opposition unless your intent was never to have a debate.
Aim 2 Academically
Debunked. No academic would accept findings from such a biased setting unless the specific aims of the study were to analyse elements of the bias itself. There is nothing academic about this. A first year student would be given a fail on presentation of such a proposal.
Aim 3 Generate scholarly debate
Debunked. As members of the boycott Israel brigade, many of these panellists have signed declarations that emphatically state they would not be part of any academic venture that would allow Israel to present itself as ‘normal’. In advance they must know, as we know, this was never going to happen or else they would never have agreed to attend.
And what of the excuses as to why the university must go ahead
Excuse 1 Freedom of speech
Debunked. Little to do with the objections to this conference and is a diversionary tactic. If these people were having this conference at the local Boycott Israel club, very few would care. It is the presentation of the conference as a legitimate academic exercise that is the problem.
So why is this still happening?
Israel, whether the attendees like it or not, is the only nation in the region that knows democracy; it is the only one that knows women’s rights, gay rights and religious freedoms; it is the only one that experiences fundamental freedoms of free speech and expression; it is surrounded by Isis, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah; it is surrounded by people that simply want to destroy it.
Almost all of the nations in the world were created through war, revolution or occupation, none would be criticized or addressed in this way. It is only Israel, out of all of them, they wish to attack.
The conference is specifically singling out the State of Israel to be treated differently than all other nations; to investigate its legality and ‘right to exist’; the legality of the world’s only Jewish state. An illogical, irrational and specific attack against the world’s Jew. A deliberate provocative political act. Singling out the Jew – that is anti-Semitism.
And those attending will lap it up; some, experts in anti-Semitic translations, will know the true meaning even if the university does not. They will then take this message off the campus, into the community, where it can be disseminated wherever the disease is spreading.
I cannot be sure whether or not the panelists are anti-Semites, although I’d be surprised if some were not.
I cannot be sure whether or not those purchasing tickets are anti-Semites, although I’d be surprised if many are not.
But the conference itself? No doubt about it.