“I believe that universities should make clear that their names cannot be invoked as the purported sponsor for conferences or dialogues in which the primary thrust is demonization of Israel.”
Lawrence H. Summers, Columbia Center for Law and Liberty, January 29, 2015
We have already exposed enough information to be able to state clearly and loudly that the anti-Israeli conference at the University of Southampton is an academic disgrace. It is at best a meeting of anti-Israeli activists and anti-Semites that are using public funds to fuel the BDS campaign. With articles in the Telegraph, Times and Express; comments from MP‘s; the statements from the University and the reaction of the Parkes Institute, it is clear that the poisonous nature of the upcoming conference is entirely transparent.
That the conference has a predetermined outcome has also already been shown; the one sided themes; the one sided panels; the one sided organisers. Every facet of this spiteful event was set in place by Oren Ben Dor, a man who in a speech that touched on the ‘suicidal nature’ of Zionism and the victim hood of Jewish ‘being’ and ‘thinking’ suggested that:
“It is the denial that there is something so Jewish in that which provoked the holocaust and the dealing with which has been so successfully postponed by the holocaust” (see video here)
Read that comment a few times, let it sink in. The main thought that went through my head after hearing that comment was that Ben-Dor is a fruitcake, albeit in my opinion, a dangerous one. If you really want to feel a little giddy, watch the entire speech.
Alongside the abusive conference itself, there is the farcical ‘free speech’ petition that includes Jew hating Persians who died thousands of years ago. Most of the ‘real’ signatures coming on this list (however many that might be) come from pro-boycott academics; who if their qualifications are actually valid, should be able to work out for themselves the duplicity and ethical somersaults required to both call for free speech and promote the boycott of academics.
If they have trouble reconciling the hypocrisy, they can always ask one of the conference organisers, Oren Ben Dor, who sits smiling and applauding Gilad Atzmon following a speech in which Atzmon talks of Jewish Lobby’s, Zionist control of politics and media and declares Zionism was a project to ‘save Jews from Jewishness’. Ben Dor protects and fights for Atzmon’s right to speak and yet somehow, in ludicrous absurdity, Ben Dor suggests that Israeli academics do not have the right to be heard. Whereas even sections of the main boycott movement has been wary of a complete academic boycott specifically because of the attack on academic freedom, Ben Dor in a stupendous example of self-righteous undemocratic censorship declares that “Israeli academics are all accomplices“. And this man hides behind the free speech banner now.
But ludicrous absurdity is the very nature of this entire enterprise – whilst Israeli Arabs are the *only* Arabs in the entire region who are free to pray to, vote for, speak with and sleep with whoever they want and 100,000’s of people die across the Middle East at the hand of multiple despotic, violent, racist ideologies, Israel is labelled the ‘apartheid’ devil in the room. This conference is a script that cannot be written without a deep underlying bias against Jews or in less polite language, without anti-Semitism.
But more worrying than academics possessing a twisted anti Jewish/Israeli psychosis, is the effect that such a demonizing conference can have on the Jewish community in the UK. Even if the hosts have crept firmly into bed with dark shadows that lie at the fringes of society,there is still an explicit legal duty to both silence hate speech and to refrain from any action that incites racial hatred. Rather than have me once again suggest that this entire conference cannot fail to provide ample ammunition on both counts I will defer on this occasion to one of the conference’s own panelists to provide his own twisted version of the connection.
“Israel’s attempts to justify its crimes against the Palestinians by saying it is preventing anti-Semitism have created a connection between Jews everywhere and Israel. Every synagogue becomes an embassy” – Ilan Pappe.
So whilst clearly, Israel cannot be excluded from open academic discussion, this connection explicitly requires responsibility when doing so. Pappe also states
“Jewish student organisations have ceased to care for the interests and concerns of Jewish students but have become a front for the Zionist point of view. They act as an arm of the Israeli Embassy.”
and finally from community institutions such as synagogues and student groups to the Jewish individuals:
“Jewish student groups were exacerbating this perception, he said. They then risked drawing Muslim anger against the state of Israel upon themselves“
And a one sided, hate filled attack to specifically demonize Israel isn’t likely to raise Muslim anger? This conference is irresponsible, unwelcome and dangerous. If the university really needs to have a bunch of rabid activists pulling its strings and dirtying its reputation, does it really have to let it happen now and in this fashion. Given one of the panelists own words of warning, failure to even out this conference into a proper academic discourse brings additional risk to Jewish synagogues, students and citizens. The University of Southampton has to be aware that it cannot possibly be argued after the event that ‘nobody knew’.
In less than one month, the University of Southampton is going to host an anti-Semitic hate-fest that is featuring people who don’t like Israel or Jews, supported by people who don’t like Israel or Jews that will no doubt be watched by people who don’t like Israel or Jews. It will then impact negatively on the Jewish community in the UK, placing them at additional risk at a time they already face rising anti-Semitism. Well done the University of Southampton, you must be so proud of yourselves. If only Dr James Parkes could see you now – how far you have fallen.
CLARIFICATION STATEMENT ON THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH
I have been accused of attempting to stifle free speech. This is a gross misrepresentation of my position and I fully believe our fundamental freedoms are vital for the health and well being of our society. There is no reason to care if a new C.S Lewis wishes to write further tales of Narnia; there is however legitimate reason to oppose those stories being funded by the Dept. of Education for inclusion in History or Geography textbooks. That opposition is not a freedom of speech argument.
There is also valid argument in saying that allowing the Conservative speaker to speak freely is not an example of free speech if the Labour speaker is tied up in the closet. Dictatorships work in this fashion but are hardly effective examples of freedom. In effect, this is very position of those hiding being the free speech argument now. It is lazy and misguided.
If this hate-fest wishes to go ahead, then the speakers are free to gather and exercise their freedom of expression using any private funding they can gather in any hall they wish to rent. It is then within the rights of those that oppose to protest outside. It is not an academic exercise and it is not a debate. It is the artificial academic legitimacy that makes this dangerous. I do not protest against the speech but the misrepresentation of it.
The University of Southampton should remove the conference from its premises, remove its logo from the advertising and the conference should highlight the fact it is inherently set-up to present an anti-Israeli position. That is all.