An open letter to the University of Southampton

I write in connection to the upcoming conference under the auspices of the Southampton Law School titled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” to be held over the weekend of 17-19th April.

university_southampton_white_on_blue_0I have no doubt given the subject matter you have received ample communication on the subject. Indeed, I am sure you were warned in advance by those that organised this event that an ‘outcry’ was to be expected, and a ‘highly organised rabble’ would noisily protest. I also believe, that vocal opposition, or the hecklers veto, is something that it is vitally important that a university stands up to; after all, most major social advances happen amidst grumblings and protest. I can assure you that this letter is not one of simple political protest.

I have spent most of my last 10 years in a University, prior to this I spent considerable time in Israel, working both with Israelis and Palestinians.  Academic study is vital and it is vital this study should know freedom. It is not the place of academics to refuse to enter an area of knowledge for fear of disrupting the currently accepted; rather it is their duty to break down walls. Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, virtually binds you to promote, encourage and enable such freedoms. So my opposition to this conference is neither political nor one on a principle of silencing opinion, rather it is one of academic quality and misrepresentation.

The conference website page claims the conference is “the first of its kind”, promising that “Key speakers and various panels will diagnose the legal position with regard to the nature of Israel”. It promises to provide “leading thinkers: scholars from law, politics, philosophy, theology, anthropology, cultural studies history and other connected disciplines” It is given the academic cover of your University and is clearly designed to appear academic in nature. Indeed its stated primary purpose is to “enable a much needed platform for scholarly debate and disagreement”. The primary page gives it further academic standing, by listing the “Academic organisation” behind it.

The stated ‘aims and objectives’ include generating ‘a multidisciplinary platform for scholarly debate’, ‘to help shift public debate’ and “to allow and to actively encourage highly different responses to all these questions “. After reading the programme, my initial thought was the panel seemed one sided for ‘scholarly debate’, so I turned to Professor Oren Ben-Dor for clarification. I noted that there seems to be a pre-determined and rather predictable outcome to this discussion, so I asked bluntly whether any speakers believe the creation of Israel to have been legitimate and whether any oppose the boycott. He responded with a simple promise, that I would “get a range of opinions”.

At the end of the letter is a list, a list of all the people participating in this conference, the ones providing this ‘range of opinions’. They have been listed here so others can view what in the professor’s eyes constitutes a “range of opinions”.  The list is long, but hardly varied. I have provided links where possible, to highlight how many of them are of a similar outlook. In general, almost all of them thoroughly agree with each other. Israel was a mistake, Israel is racist, Israel practices Apartheid, Israel engages in ethnic cleansing, Israel should be boycotted, Israel is to blame for the general instability in the Middle East and so on. Given the number of people on the panels and the marginalised opinion they hold, the good professor may well have chosen his sample with great care. The very few that do not align directly with them, are simply indifferent.

The vast majority of panellists are coming not in their academic capacity, but supported by their self declarations of being ‘activists’. They are using their credentials to further their cause. For let us not make the mistake of equating noise with substance. The activists on this panel are outliers. It is true they do not describe themselves this way and they attempt to cover themselves with  academic validity through suggestions they are merely ‘ahead of the curve’, or even worse, part of ‘a silent majority’. The Israeli activists are particularly prone to the later description, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If one could imagine the UK having an external nemesis,  would it make the opinions of our outliers any more valid just because they would, in another place, receive a stage in which to vent their views?  Would the old USSR calling on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty to attend a conference, elevate that party to one that is ever anything more than the miniscule sum of its parts, despite the absolute conviction of its members? Within the old USSR would using that party to reflect an academic finding about the entire UK society be valid?

There is nothing wrong with a group of activists gathering together to further their cause. Nothing wrong with outlandish statements,  extreme opinions and flag waving, but Israel clouds people’s minds, on both sides of the great divide. What I always ask people to do when discussing Israel is remove it from the equation. Hold everything else constant, attempt to apply your argument to *any other* argument in the world to see if it still holds true. In this instance we have a conference, with like minded academics that know each other from activist meetings, calling on the opposition outliers to provide artificial validity. The results of this conference are already known because the contributors all agree with each other. They have each other on ‘speed dial’. There is no other opinion to be presented at all. Academic, by any standard, this isn’t. If it is just another, yet relatively elaborate part of, the Palestinian solidarity Campaign shouldn’t it be labelled as such?

These activists all think they are right. They believe that they are in general, more aware, more knowledgeable, more ‘humane’ than others. They believe that the non believers do not understand, haven’t yet seen the light and so on. They wish for their message to be heard. The opposition is considered ignorant, in-humane and regressive. These academics are the mirror image of those they despise the most. Supremacists who vehemently shout down any dissenting voice. My voice in this letter, like others, was dismissed in advance and you were warned it was coming. The classic strategy of religious fanatics protecting their cause. ‘Beware the non-believer’.

My main concern about this conference is the academic cover you provide it and the way it is misrepresented. This is not an academic exercise. This does not provide “a range of opinions”, nor will it break new ground. Most of the participants believe the creation of the State of Israel was a mistake that delivered a gross injustice to the Palestinians. They believe it has no legal validity and is in essence itself a violation of ethics, legality and morality. They believe the only just way forward is to create a single state for all its citizens.  There, conference over. This will be the finding. If you ask 100 anorexics what they have for breakfast, the finding does not reflect what people have for breakfast.

The program clearly states this conference is not external, but being run by the ‘Law School‘, this would I imagine, despite section 43, place a burden on the organisers to ensure certain standards are maintained. The University of Southampton I assume has standards of academic integrity. This one is from Oxford

“(1)        The University expects all members of the University including staff and students and those who are not members of the University but who are conducting research on University premises or using University facilities or funding for their research, to observe the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of their research. In pursuance of such high standards they must:

a)     be honest in proposing, conducting and reporting research”

Does the code of practice at the University of Southampton allow one of your Professors to present the list below as “a range of opinions”? Because of the university affiliation, the findings of this conference will undoubtedly be used in research, referenced frequently and devoured by its eager audience; does this conference therefore reflect the highest standards of ethics and integrity?  Does the University of Southampton have a similar code of ethics to Oxford? Will your code of practice allow the professor and the activists who are gathering, to present the findings as the outcome of an academic conference at the Law School of the University of Southampton rather than simply the truth, that this ‘trial’ was conducted in a Kangaroo court?

The pure academic truth is that if *any* first year undergraduate student presented  an essay in which the source material was so badly skewed, he would be given a straight fail by any marker in the land.

It is for the University of Southampton to distance itself from this conference. This is nothing but a group of activists gathering together to wave their religious flag accompanied by a couple of ‘indifferents’ who wish to bask in the sun. These people exist in a paradigm, in which for them, exceptions and anomalies are all explained within the body of their underlying premise. The academic result of such a situation is simply an ever increasing need for these activists to outdo themselves in struggling to maintain a cohesive argument. Ever increasing circles by a group cut off from everyone else by a preconception no one else is worth listening to. This conference is an attempt by radical diehards to go one step further in proving the world is flat. It isn’t ground-breaking at all, rather, it is depressingly formulaic, archaic and transparent. They are going to declare Israel isn’t legitimate from the core. There may be a place for such radical discourse in society, but it should not under any circumstances be allowed to hide under an umbrella of authenticity when it is nothing more than a ‘hate fest’.

I wish to ask the professor TEN simple questions, I believe the University of Southampton should be asking them with me:

1. Professor Oren Ben-Dor, you described the list of names below as providing a “range of opinions”, how is that comment academically justified?

2. If one of your students suggested it was possible to draw conclusions using a biased list like the one below or they argued that it represented a ‘range of opinions’, how would you address him?

3. Will the statements made at the end of this conference be reported as if they are connected to the University of Southampton and be represented as part of unbiased research?

4.  As we all already know what these statements will be, what is the purpose of this gathering?

5. I assume you accept that most of the panellists are self described Pro-Palestinian ‘activists’ and ‘hate’ Israel. Given the make-up of the panels, I assume you accept most of the audience will fit this description too. As almost all of the panellists and audience will vehemently ‘hate’ Israel, what academic steps have you taken to ensure that ‘hate’ is not an integral part of the conference?

6. Will you acknowledge in any statements made at the end of this conference and will you acknowledge in your findings that the panellists involved contained a highly selective sample reflected in 80% of them being active ‘boycott supporters’?

7. Why is there not a single panellist who provides another side of the debate, not one?

8. Given the boycott of Israel is still a minority viewpoint, even amongst academics, how are around 80% of your panellists active boycott supporters?

9. As an activist who is dedicated to your cause. Do you consider yourself academically qualified to judge legal matters on the subject?

10.  Why in all of the materials I have seen on the conference do you refrain from pointing out the inherent bias contained within?

And I wish to ask the  University of Southampton  one question.

The list below clearly highlights the ridiculous and pre-meditated bias of this conference. It also emphasises that no dissenting viewpoint will be given a hearing. Your University name will be used as cover for a quasi-religious movement that silences dissent in an attempt to give it standing and credibility. It exists in a closed world that focuses on a single enemy. This is not academia, this is not research, academia is about furthering knowledge, this conference is one of hate. Given the current atmosphere, can you really claim this conference is held “with due regard for the need to respect others and promote the best interests of the University and academic learning” and does it “apply the principles of justice and fairness“. So, in asking why you are allowing this to happen and given the questions to the professor, what steps have the University of Southampton taken to ensure that ‘hate’ will not be an integral part of the conference?



(I have tried wherever possible to ensure maximum accuracy in this listing. Given the size of the list and the nuances involved, it was a large undertaking. Language was also a barrier, with some academics producing little or no work in English – I apologise in advance if any errors have been made.)


PANEL 1 –  History(s) of Palestine and International Law

Prof. Gabi Piterberg from the University of California at Los Angeles. Piterberg has called Israel’s system akin to Apartheid and actively supports the boycott.  More on his perspective here

Professor Nur Masalha, St. Mary’s College, University of Surrey. Frequently described as a Palestinian activist online. Supports the general divestment and the academic boycotts

Professor. Ilan Pappe, Department of History, University of Exeter. Hardly needs an introduction, also described as an activist.  He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Firmly believes Israel is racist, apartheid, an ethnically cleansing state and so on. Actively supports the boycott

Dr. Victor Kattan, Law Faculty, National University of Singapore. Actively supports the Palestinian position. Called for papers on BDS and actively supports the boycott.

Professor Nadim N. Rouhana, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Spoken on the one state solution.  And spoke during Israeli Apartheid week.

After lunch speaker – Professor Richard Falk. Professor of International Law, Princeton University. Another one that needs little introduction, with his own personal wiki section on the conflict.  Has compared Israel’s policies to the Nazi’s and wrote an article called “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust”. Actively supports the boycott, calling it a ‘civic duty’.

PANEL 2 – Political Philosophy and Political Zionism

Professor Yosefa Loshitzky, School of Oriental and African Studies. Loshitzky is currently writing a book called ‘Just Jews? Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Contemporary Culture and Beyond’. Make of that what you will. Talks about how Israelis enjoy the suffering of Palestinians, uses Nazi metaphors to describe the conflict and actively supports the boycott.

Professor Brad Roth, Wayne State University. Less writing available online, but actively supported a boycott.

Dr. Sylvie Delacroix, University College, London. The first of the panellists who I could not place on any boycott list. Has spoken about the Palestinian constitution (the YouTube title is misleading). An article she wrote on the subject was titled in deference to a Mahmoud Darwish quote. Her only reference to violence was to suggest the first Intifada which “may never have managed to be completely non-violent”.  An interesting description of a 6 year fight that saw 200 Israelis killed, 3000 injured and an extraordinary 1000 Palestinian lives lost to intra-Palestinian violence. Having said that, credit where it is due, Delacroix seems to take the most balanced academic approach of all those referenced to this point.

Dr. Ronit Lentin, Retired Associate Professor Sociology, Trinity College, Dublin. Wiki states Lentin “has published extensively on racism”, described by BDS Sydney as an ‘activist’,  Lentin has said “Israel is determined to eliminate the Palestinians”, “a logic of genocide”. Actively supports the boycott

PANEL 3: Apartheid as an International Crime – the legal implications for Palestine

Dr. John Reynolds, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. Reynolds participation in a 2013 paper ‘Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. States elsewhere that Israel is a colonial power, the resistance is understandable, the rockets are understandable and Reynolds supports the boycott 

Dr. Anthony Löwstedt, Webster University Vienna. Lowestedt claims that 98% of “all gross human rights violations so far committed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are sole responsibilities of the Israeli Jews, and talks of Israeli apartheid. In that piece Lowestedt claims that “the Israel lobby does not take it well that students are still to some extent being told and taught the truth about Israel and Palestine”. He references  “The Israeli state death squads” and claims that ““In many cases, it is enough for a Palestinian to get killed if s/he even looks at a military installation or a soldier the wrong way”.  He claims “the supreme goal is to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Palestine” although whilst in Israel he “did not get to discuss this matter in detail with Israelis”. Riddled with inaccuracies such as “you must be a Jew to serve in the Israeli army and if you are not a Jew you cannot serve in the army”, distortions and statistical headstands, these pieces show that Lowstedt’s opinion is driven fiercely by his internal clock rather than through some academic process of research.

Professor George Bisharat, University of California. Bisharat is a Palestinian-American professor of law who clearly supports a one state solution. He believes Israel is committing war crimes and calls for a boycott of Israeli apartheid. Bisharat continually uses Nazi references, talks of massacres and master plans and frequently addresses complex historic events with simple sound bites, one sided propaganda, and outright distortions.

Professor Oren Ben-Dor, Law School, University of Southampton. One of the organisers and ‘hosts’ for the event, he has claimed “Israeli Apartheid is the Core of the Crisis”, going on of course to claim “Only when this realization sinks in will it be possible to envision a stable political solution–a single state over all historic Palestine”. Ben Dor actively supports the boycott  and another piece against the silencing of Gilad Atzmon, provide a wonderful insight into the hypocrisy and double standards of leading academics who promote the Israeli boycott.

The panel is followed by ‘Unmade Film’ an exhibition by Uriel Orlow which parallels the Holocaust and Deir Yassin. Orlow recently spent an evening with the Hackney Branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign  and has frequently signed up for anti-israeli petitions. The closing act of the day is Elias Khoury, A Lebanese author.  Khoury ‘spent years gathering from refugees their personal histories of the mass expulsions that attended the creation of Israel. He felt the stories should be given to an Arab Tolstoy, and imagined himself in the role’

PANEL 4: Legitimacy, Self-Determination and Political Zionism

Professor John Strawson, University of East London. Strawson held a previous post at Birzeit University and appears as a signee on anti-Israeli declarations.  Strawson is the first academic on the list who seems to reject the label Apartheid, which in turns raises the question – why wasn’t he on the Apartheid panel?

Dr. Ghada Karmi, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies University of Exeter. Writes frequently on Palestinian issues in newspapers and magazines.  According to the Wiki page, Karmi clearly believes that “Israel does not deserve to continue as a state”. In favour of a one state solution she notes “would be the end of a Jewish state in our region”. Karmi openly calls herself an activist, describing Zionism a “loathsome” ideology. Karmi incredibly declares in the same piece that the radicalization and extremism of Arab societies “can be traced back to Israel.” Apparently another academic with a mental block, she declares there were no pogroms in Arab lands, and actively promotes the boycott.

Dr. Blake Alcott, Unaffiliated Researcher, London. Alcott’s article  ‘a two-state solution is a Zionist solution’ clearly states his position as he declares that the Zionist goal is for ‘eretz israel’ to be ‘Araberrein’, which again sees Nazi terminology used in descriptions of Zionism. Calls Noam Chomsky a ‘soft zionist’ and actively supports the boycott. Hypocritically, Alcott finds bias uncomfortable when it doesn’t suit him.

Ntina Tzouvala, Doctoral Researcher, Law School, University of Durham,UK. Still working towards a PHD and not much to find on Tzouvala in English

PANEL 5 Israel’s Domestic Law: Inbuilt Limits of Constitutional Reflection?

Lea Tsemel, an Israeli lawyer and leading human rights activist. Described by the BBC as “the woman who defends suicide bombers”. Has stated the country took a cue from Nazi Germany–“the same racism, the same hatred, the same ideology of super race. Tsemel has supported the boycott

Sawsan Zaher, Senior Attorney at Adalah. Stated that ‘discriminatory policies are one thing but when you have discriminatory laws, this is apartheid‘.

Dr. Valentina Azarov (Al-Quds University). Quite an academic backstory  but hardly one that suggests academic even-handedness. Actively supports the boycott and believes the solution to the issues are to be found in the international criminal courts.

Dr. Mazen Masri, City University, London. Has served as legal advisor to the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Masri is active in supporting the boycott  and uses parallels of apartheid to desribe the israeli system.

PANEL 6: Israeli Citizenship and Israeli Nationality.

Dr. Jeff Handmaker, the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus. Suggests companies such as IKEA are complicit in a serious human rights violation, lending support to the settlement enterprise. Apartheid, war crimes, cover-up’s, quite the collection. Handmaker has argued that ‘true humanity’ will be found when “the Israeli regime is held accountable for decades of repression, dispossession and regional destabilisation.”

Yoella Har-Sheffi (sp?). Har-Sheffi is apparently not a practising University Academic, so beyond understanding she is in the legal field, there is little to find on her in English. She did argue for the ban of Wagner to be lifted, was ‘fired’ from her mainstream paper as a journalist for her beliefs and openly deplored Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Called on  the UK government to recognise Palestine.

Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, writer, Journalist, member of Jaffa One State. Yeshua Lyth says that a secular democratic state is actually a call for the annihilation of Israel, a call she supports. Claims Israel built an apartheid state on the basis of religion  and ethnicity. Actively supports the boycott.

Noura Erakat, Assistant Professor, George Mason University. Described as a Palestinian American legal scholar. Goes beyond Apartheid to declare Israeli policies are “ethnic cleansing”. Erakat’s party pieces are pure propaganda, full of distorted facts and out of context responses. Erakat actively supports the boycott.

PANEL 7: Israel’s Regime of Property Rights, Labour, Education and Housing

Dr Uri Davis, Al-Quds University, Jerusalem Abu Dis, and University of Exeter, UK. Although an academic, the wiki page, refers to him as an activist, who was the ‘founding member of the Movement against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine’. Actively promotes the boycott.

Mia Tamarin. Israeli who studied in the UK and applied for conscientious objecter status and became an activist on her return to Israel. Beyond doing the rounds, being held aloft by those on the other side of the great divide and clearly suited to the agenda, one can only ask academically, what she is doing there.

Dr. Haitam Suleiman, al-Quds University, Jerusalem, and Prof. Robert Home, Law School, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, United Kingdom.  Have worked together on a paper that suggests Israel’s story now lies ‘within a colonial and postcolonial narrative’ and explains the article is the outcome of field research undertaken by a Palestinian Arab living in Israel (Suleiman).

Claris Harbon, Doctoral Researcher, McGill University. Specialises mainly on subjects concerning the subordination of subaltern minorities and disempowered groups such as Mizrahis (Jews of Arab/Muslim Descent), women, Arab- Israelis and children. Works on another aspect of a discriminatory Israel, specifically from an Ashkenasi /Spharedi angle.

PANEL 8: Palestine in Comparative Re-thinking of International Law

Dr. Monika Halkot, Department of Communication Arts, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.  Unable to locate via the English university website, despite the comprehensive listings. Unable to locate on Google.

Dr. Marcelo Svirsky. Wollongong University, Australia. Only need to read this piece ‘From Auschwitz To Sderot: The Decline Of Our Humanity‘ to understand his position. Actively supports the boycott.

Dr. Michael Kearney, School of Law, University of Sussex, UK. International Law speech that deals with Israeli ‘apartheid’, an article on Israeli ‘war crimes’.

Professor Ugo Mattei, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Alfred and Hanna Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Signed the ‘One State Declaration’ (the end of Israel).

PANEL 9: Assumption of Responsibility for the Suffering in Palestine

Dr. Regina Rauxloh, Associate Professor in Law, University of Southampton. Israel does not  appear to be Rauxloh’s field, so I assume if her associate, Professor Oren Ben-Dor was not holding this on this own home turf, Rauxloh wouldn’t be present.

Professor Kevin Jon Heller, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),London. Another academic from SOAS, he states here he is “generally wary of academic boycotts“, so it would be interesting to know how he voted in the recent SOAS wide boycott vote that saw a 60-40% split amongst ‘SOAS staff’. Heller not as rabid as his colleagues, but still maintains a clear fascination with tweets such as “Israel doesn’t need tunnels. It sows #terror through bombs, artillery, missiles, tanks, ground troops”.

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Talks of policies of fear and colonialism, politicises the internal violence against Palestinian women by suggesting “Colonialism is empowering killers and sustaining internal crimes through bureaucratic and legal means”. Is part of the pro-Palestinian speaking circuit, incredibly suggests here that ‘ Rape and other forms of sexual violence against Palestinian women have always been an element of the settler colonial state’s attempts to destroy and eliminate indigenous Palestinians from their land’.

Salma Karmi Ayyub, Criminal Barrister, UK. Is or has been an external consultant for the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq. Writes frequently about possible Israeli war crimes, taking Israel to the ICC is described as a leading Palestinian activist who discusses and defends BDS in this video.

PANEL 10: Responsibility for Return

Dr. Salman Abu-Sitta, Land Society Palestine. Abu-Sitta is a Palestinian researcher. He writes about Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian right of return. States “Palestine is the patrimony of Palestinians. No amount of spin, Hasbara, or Za’bara, myths, bombs, F16s, roadblocks, siege, walls, ethnic cleansing and Apartheid will change that. Remember that”.  Supports a boycott.

Dr. Ruba Salih, Reader in Gender Studies, SOAS, London. Palestinian academic, has written and researched Palestinian issues, including this piece on the refugees. Opposes sanctions against Iran as sanctions hurt the children and the weak, supports boycott against Israel.

Dr. Catriona Drew, School of Law, SOAS. Unsure of her academic  position as only has one article listed on the SOAS site. Called on the UK to stop the violence in Gaza. Does not publicly appear to participate in BDS.

Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, College of Law, Hebron University. Wrote on Palestine in the UN. Was a Legal Advisor and Project Manager for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

PANEL 11: Responsibility and Belonging, Religion, Politics and Law.

Dr. Hatem Bazian, Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A Palestinian activist, Bazian’s ‘reading list’ for Palestine highlights how he views balance and  integrity in academic research. From an online search, Bazian seems one of the most extreme of the ‘esteemed academics’ on display at the conference. Talks of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing, Murder and Oppression.  Called for an international day of action for Palestine, is an activist on Twitter and Facebook and actively calls for a boycott.

Professor Yakov Rabkin, Professor of History, University of Montréal. Author of a book A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Claims Israel’s ‘turn to the right’ is now termed fascist by ‘the mainstream’ and Israel has “become a beacon for right-wing movements around the world thanks to a gamut of ideological, political, economic and military values contained in political Zionism”. Active against Zionism, fights against the anti-Semitic label of the boycott and promotes the legitimacy of the boycott, if not the boycott itself.

Professor Haim Bresheeth, School of Oriental and African Studies. Another scholar who is a self-described activist. In a piece that I am sure even he may consider foolish today Bresheeth states that Israel can only be explained by the many decades of instrumental colonialism, a place where to be ‘pro Israeli’ is to be foolish. That Israel will only relent under the most intense political, financial and cultural pressure from the world community. That pressure is now developing swiftly, and is now more likely than ever to lead to the collapse of the apartheid state in the Middle East. Actively supported the boycott.

Professor Gil Anidjar, Department of Religion, Columbia University. Another academic whose name seems to be tied in with anything that is against Israel. Saw the Geneva Accord as too bad a deal for Palestinians, agreed with a statement that calls the current situation apartheid  and actively supports boycott.

PANEL 12: Responsibility and Belonging: Palestine as Political, Ecological and Legal Space

Professor Joel Kovel, Unaffiliated Researcher. Another academic referred to as a ‘political activist’. Kovel’s 2007 book Overcoming Zionism argues that “the creation of Israel was a mistake”.  Argues that Israel practices  ‘state-sponsored racism’ fully as incorrigible as that of apartheid South Africa and deserving of the same resolution. Has been active in calling for a boycott of Israel.

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio. Described as  a ‘de-colonizer’ and in that video says the system meets the definition of Apartheid. One of the founders of Zochrot. Bronstein Aparicio Actively supports the boycott.

Mr. Walaa Sbeit, musician, Iqrit, Palestine / Mr. John Assi, Director of the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy at al-Najah University. Sbeit is a Palestinian musician whilst Assi, from a University in Nablus, is active in calling for a ‘nuclear free Israel’.

Professor Virginia Tilley, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University. Wrote a book called ‘the One State Solution’ and led a research team that “found that Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are consistent with colonialism and apartheid”. This piece is a must read to understand Tilley’s mind-set and Tilley actively supports boycott.

PANEL 13 / A round table is planned with new speakers expected to be added.




44 thoughts on “An open letter to the University of Southampton

  1. The term Kangaroo court comes to mind.
    Judge jury and executioners.
    A forum for Anti-Zionist ans Anti-Semitic Rhetoric

  2. Thanks for posting this – particularly the breakdown of the planned speakers and your analysis of their positions. Is this the full list of speakers that Ben Dror provided? Be sure that we will be organising action outside the university during this “conference”

  3. Thanks Rob. I followed the list in the programme, so believe it to be the comprehensive list of panellists. There is a 13th panel that had William Schabas on it, but he was then removed. It seems they are still seeking additional people.

  4. very good David

    disgusting ‘conference’ … kanagroo court …

    I have written to the VC but he bleats ‘free speech’ of course

    1. Jonathan, I know, I have already seen their stock response, hiding behind statute, which I have also addressed. But this is not dressing itself up as a meeting of the local Palestinian Activists group, it is pretending to be something it is not. Anyway, I have also sent them a copy of this letter, the response to which I will post here.

  5. Absolutely brilliant letter – I hope you sent it to the VC

    I also wrote to the VC who gave me the stock response.

    This so called conference has no legitimacy whatsoever. It is a disgrace that facilities supplied by UK taxpayers are being used in this way.

  6. Have been impressed by your letter to the University of Southampton. Are you aware of other stuff being done at universities. Activity seems very scattergun.

    1. Thx Mark, This one really attracted my attention because of its size and scope. I am aware of some of the other actions (such as the recent vote at SOAS) and everyone knows some (such as SOAS) have a notorious history. I am not sure why it is so inconsistently spread. I think to a degree, the action is push and pull, so it is in areas where both faculty and students are activists that real trouble arises. The final ingredient is the ex-Israeli ‘post Zionist’ influence, that provides a veneer of artificial respectability and allows for the gloves to truly come off. When one of those is added to the mix (as in this case) they gain a confidence to really push past the boundaries of what is acceptable, because ‘Israelis think this way too’.

  7. Hi David, just wanted to let you know that I have posted your letter on SFI FB page with great response. An excellent article, one which many of us are very grateful for. Please let me know of any developments and i shall do like wise. Thanks again Simon

  8. Am particularly interested as rot what (if any) response is received by the authorities there and other universities. There is unfinished business.

    1. well, I will let you know how they do reply. I understand from others who wrote, the university had formulated a response to earlier emails that was expected this coming Tuesday or Wednesday. We will see if they delay further now to edit the response to address the clear issues raised here.

  9. NB the new anti-terrorism law obliges universities to counter extremism. I doubt it will help in this case though.

  10. Excellent research. Free speech is not dead in Southampton, just selective.

    The UKLFI can surely support you in determining other universities where inappropriate activities verging on or falling into antisemitism occur.

    So many of these attendees have crossed the antisemitic boundary by using Nazi references that they should be immediately discredited and charges under the EU Working Definition. Why does seem to be ignored?

    Anyway, once again, thank you for the substantial research and clear reasoning yo why this conference is such a sham.

  11. England, Britain is becoming no better than Nazi Germany! In this day in time, racist, antisemite, nazi events like this should not be allowed!

    1. Judy, you shouldn’t be. In substance it is a meaningless statistic. If you lived in Argentina and believed the US government were aliens and these aliens had been controlling the world’s destiny for a generation, you would find a few US citizens to agree with you. If only 0.1% or 1 in a 1000 hold this type of conspiracy nonsense in their heads, then there would still be 300,000 US citizens to choose from. Unfortunately this is the way it works. That these ‘outliers’ or extremists are held up as celebrities, enticed by the fame and reward and come to a place that ‘loves’ them, is not surprising either. Some of them truly believe what they say, others I feel, have long made the connection between the outlandish statement and the financial reward. Either way, they should be separated in your mind from those they stand alongside. It is perfectly logical for a Palestinian to take the position he does (right or wrong), the Israeli standing beside him is like a US citizen who believes his government is controlled by UFO’s and that is the way you should treat him.

      1. Yes, when people drum up random Jews / Israelis who are anti-Zionist eg Neturei Karta or Silverstein, Pappe etc. and far-left equivalents, to try to justify themselves, I point out that :-
        a) c. 200 million Christians (Protestants) despise the Pope and b) 80% of Muslims (Sunnis) want to behead the other 20% (shia) and vice versa. It is an exaggeration but it always works. Jews/Zionists are no more/less monolithic than other groups, except that we may well have a higher degree of sensitivity to other people’s suffering as we know (very well) what it is like.

  12. Spot on regarding the anti Israeli Jews. But for me the only real motivation is to have some influence on those people and organisations who May be open enough to look at the issue from all perspectives. Our opponents have incredibly been able to paint themselves as the underdogs, when they gave massive power and money behind them.

  13. Ironic that a speaker is coming from the Erasmus school, one of the original humanist vicious anti Semites

  14. Thank you for your follow up email and I apologise for the delay in responding.

    I just want to assure you that we are aware of all our legal responsibilities – under the Counterterrorism and Security Act 2015, under other legislation to ensure that speakers do not break the law by, for example, inciting acts of violence, and under health and safety legislation to ensure a safe environment for our staff, students and visitors. All of these responsibilities need to be balanced with our other legal responsibility to enable freedom of speech within the law.

    The University operates a Code of Practice to ensure freedom of speech within the law. This Code of Practice helps us to ensure that events are legal, and that they are safe. We will be using the Code of Practice in respect of this event. We have notified and are in consultation with the relevant authorities, who are aware that the event is taking place.

  15. Thank you for your email dated to the Vice-Chancellor concerning the conference on International Law and the State of Israel. Professor Nutbeam has asked me to reply on his behalf.

    The University of Southampton is legally obliged under Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the University as well as for visiting speakers.

    Our ordinances state that academic staff “have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, with due regard for the need to respect others and promote the best interests of the University and academic learning, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges.”

    The title of this conference raises an important question, but the conference itself takes no explicit perspective, and academic contributions from all interested parties are most welcome. The conference is designed to have a multi-cultural emphasis, and speakers and delegates have been invited from all perspectives. Their participation has been actively encouraged in relation to the presentation of individual papers and the running of dedicated panel sessions.

    Separately from the conference, this University is very proud to host the Parkes Institute, the world’s oldest and most wide-ranging centre for the study of Jewish/non-Jewish relations across the ages. The Institute was founded by James Parkes, a tireless fighter against anti-Semitism, who transferred his extensive library and archive to the university in 1964. The Parkes Institute carries out a range of activities. As well as teaching at both undergraduate and postgraduate level, and an extensive research programme, the Institute has a rapidly developing outreach programme which includes adult education classes and cultural days, schools and colleges visits, as well as public seminars and lectures.

    Our academic staff from Parkes – and across the university – have a range of education and research collaborations with colleagues in Israel.

    1. The last part of the reply is basically saying “I cant be an anti-Semite, I got Jewish friends!”

      1. are these both replies received today? I haven’t seen the ‘counter terrorism’ one before

  16. From what I know, it is interesting to see how James Parkes is effectively been “airbrushed”. He was a lifelong supporter of Israel and Zionism, not just a “tireless fighter against antisemitism” my guess is that he woul regret endowing the University that is more or less spitting on his grave.

    1. It has been touched, but not really altered as far as I can see. They are still working on it (and the document is a royal mess- the formatting is all off) and it looks like a work in progress. My guess is people hassling them last week forced an early release. It is too unprofessional to have been thought ready for release. It is possible they are now changing words within the papers or something. I might be wrong but they do not yet seem to have changed either the speakers or the themes.I’ll have a more thorough look later.

      1. Thanks David, I thought last week there was some nonsense about; Zionism, Islamaphobia, and Judephobia all being “bedfellows” Might have been mistaken

  17. Is there then not a differentiation to be made between allowing what they regard as free speech and the university sponsoring this event?

    1. Free speech is free speech and agree that the issue here is the academic cover and University sponsorship. As much as I despise their POV I don’t fight against the right of the Palestinian Solidarity group to meet and this is pretty much what this is. It is the credibility and standing that this is given that changes everything, not what they say. IMHO the fight has always been against the University not the speakers.

  18. This conference is very unfortunate. It besmirches the name of the University and is one-sided, intellectually dishonest, and a fig-leaf for anti-Israel propaganda.

    How sad that the University which gave a home to the archive of James Parkes, a Christian champion of Israel throughout his lifetime, is hosting this dubious event. The Parkes Centre at Southampton University [named in his honour] has been a powerhouse for research into Jewish culture and history, offering balanced research and teaching on Zionism and Israel at the highest level. Furthermore, for many years the University Library has housed the Anglo-Jewish Archives and benefited from the generosity of Jewish donors.

    I too, have written to both Professor Ben Dor and the VC, receiving the same stock reply as other correspondents. It need hardly be pointed out that the university chose to host this conference and invited the speakers, so claiming that it is obliged, under the Education Act, to allow them ‘freedom of speech’ is disingenuous. Nobody forced the university to promote such an unbalanced, intellectually dishonest propaganda for the anti-Israel lobby.

  19. I am sick to death of hearing this hypocritical claptrap about the “freedom of expression” that must be allowed at all costs to the universities. The universities, as witnessed by the Ghaddafi Prize awarded by LSE, kowtow to anyone who gives them money. This was quickly realised by the Arab potentates who have done all in their power to influence so-called “free” universities in a large number of countries, infecting them with antisemitism, as we have seen in the USA, South Africa and elsewhere. Universities are easily bought, and in the case of Southampton they have prostituted themselves to the Arab cause.

  20. A few weeks ago I saw something on another website when discussing the SOAS situation which struck me as being a good idea and is particularly pertinent in regards to this great letter. We should be asking employers (and particularly law firm partners) to write to the Vice Chancellor and the Dean of the Law Faculty stating that they will no longer recognise any degree from the University of Southampton (particularly their law degrees) as being of the required standard for their firms and therefore will no longer make any job offers to anyone holding one of their degrees. The explanation for this decision would be clear:

    “The program clearly states this conference is not external, but being run by the ‘Law School‘, this would I imagine, despite section 43, place a burden on the organisers to ensure certain standards are maintained. The University of Southampton I assume has standards of academic integrity. This one is from Oxford

    “(1) The University expects all members of the University including staff and students and those who are not members of the University but who are conducting research on University premises or using University facilities or funding for their research, to observe the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of their research. In pursuance of such high standards they must:

    a) be honest in proposing, conducting and reporting research”

    Does the code of practice at the University of Southampton allow one of your Professors to present the list below as “a range of opinions”? Because of the university affiliation, the findings of this conference will undoubtedly be used in research, referenced frequently and devoured by its eager audience; does this conference therefore reflect the highest standards of ethics and integrity? Does the University of Southampton have a similar code of ethics to Oxford? Will your code of practice allow the professor and the activists who are gathering, to present the findings as the outcome of an academic conference at the Law School of the University of Southampton rather than simply the truth, that this ‘trial’ was conducted in a Kangaroo court?

    The pure academic truth is that if *any* first year undergraduate student presented an essay in which the source material was so badly skewed, he would be given a straight fail by any marker in the land.”

    I certainly think that a few letters going out in this way over the next few days and publicised widely could be an effective tool.

  21. Telling them that any delegates would not be welcome in leading law firms is a brilliant idea. My own contribution is to see that all attendees are asked to complete a quiz about Israel, the kind of thing that anyone vaguely familiar with Israel will know but that these people will have enormous difficulty in completing. A map of the area with the names of the countries removed, for example, and asking them to fill in the names of the countries (this was tried on University Challenge, no one got it right). About 20 such questions should show how ignorant most of the people attending the conference are about their great enemy.

  22. Not true. There are a number of prominent Jews who are Jew-haters and Israel-haters and this is all connected with the Stockholm Mentality, i.e. identification with the persecutors. All such people are mentally sick but this does not stop them being taken seriously, if such people were not taken seriously there would be no Christian saints!

    1. Ideas like simple fact quizzes on Israel for delegates, and non recognition of degrees awarded by the University of Southampton, will do nothing to either prevent the conference being held or any backlash, which will probably not take long to appear.

      Moreover, it seems unfair to penalise students by withdrawing degree recognition, when it is not their fault this conference is so one sided and intellectually dishonest. Moreover, these students will often have debts of about £50k once they’ve graduated, but if degrees are not recognised their employment chances will be severely affected.

      Of greater concern is the possibility that the conference outcome will stimulate further attacks on European Jewish communities, which has been pointed out to the VC and was unresponded to.

      Does anyone have contacts at the Israeli embassy? Can the Israeli Cultural Attache get involved?.

  23. The Cultural Attaché of the Israel Embassy is almost certainly aware of all this but what can it do? If the Embassy gets involved it will CERTAINLY be accused of interfering with all the usual claptrap about “academic freedom” ,etc. and will make things much worse. If it were the embassy of certain other countries (no names) they would just send in their terrorists to gun down all the speakers, it would be so simple!

  24. If Netanyahu can speak to Congress despite Obama’s dislike, probably because Netanyahu was right about the upcoming deal with Iran, there is absolutely no reason why the Israeli Embassy cannot state its objection to this one sided, intellectually dishonest and thinly veneered attack on Israel’s legitimacy.

    It is not interference to state an opinion, however much it will be disliked. Also, it would be more than inconsistent to claim free speech for the conference, but interference for the Embassy. One might feel that if the Embassy feels unable to defend its own country’s interests, the likelihood of others doing so, and a principled large scale stance taken, reduces.

  25. interesting how many hate mongers being allowed in to speak and PAMELA GELLER, ROBERT SPENCER and GEERT WILDERS denied entry for being Pro Israel

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