Southampton university cancels conference questioning Israel’s right to exist

This is how far the Israel-bashing has proceeded on the British Left. According to the Torygraph, Southampton University had scheduled a conference on whether Israel had a right to exist, but it was canceled after widespread protests.

The University of Southampton has withdrawn permission for the three-day conference to be held on its campus in the face of criticism from opponents who described it as “giving legitimacy to anti-Semitism”.

Critics said the conference – International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism – would be a ‘one-sided’ exercise in Israel-bashing and more than 6,000 people signed a petition calling on the university to cancel it.

One of its most respected former alumni returned his degree in protest and at least one major patron of the university was said to have been considering withdrawing funding.

Organisers describe the conference as “the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event … it is unique because it concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish State of Israel.”

The University of Southampton has withdrawn permission for the three-day conference to be held on its campus in the face of criticism from opponents who described it as “giving legitimacy to anti-Semitism”.

The university’s own website advertising the conference, originally planned for April 17 to 19, made no secret of the fact that the event would question both the legal and moral right of the state of Israel to exist, stating:

“It concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel. Rather than focusing on Israeli actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference will focus on exploring themes of Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism; all of which are posed by Israel’s very nature.”

But in a sudden turnaround the university has apparently told the conference’s organisers that the event could no longer go ahead on safety grounds, after fears that demonstrators would try to disrupt the event, clashing with Pro-Palestinian activists expected to demonstrate in support.

The organizers (anti-Israel to a person) decried the cancellation as a violation of free speech, with “safety” being used as an excuse, and I actually agree with them. If the university originally agreed to host this odious conference, then they should not have backed off. It abrogates free speech to cancel it, unless there really were serious threats that someone would be physically (not mentally!) injured. What I do object to is the apparent stacking of the conference with people who were unanimously in agreement with the proposition that Israel shouldn’t exist.

What, no people who think otherwise were going to speak? That’s just dumb for an academic conference, and makes it seem more like an exercise in Israel-bashing than an open discussion. And in fact that it what it was, a meeting verging on official anti-Semitism.

Let’s face it: the only way Israel is going away is if the Palestinians, Iranians, or other Israel-hating countries bomb it out of existence. And why not a conference on other countries’ right to exist? After all, since War Two a lot of nations, including Pakistan, North Korea, and Slovakia (like Israel, designed to encompass an ethnic group), came into existence either by fiat, self-decision, or international mandate. Once again, Israel is being singled out. Why is that, do you suppose?

I shouldn’t have to say this, but since there are so many Israel bashers about, I must reiterate that I’ve always favored the establishment of a Palestinian state, and think that Netanyahu’s statement opposing that (though he’s seemingly retracted his position after his re-election) is reprehensible. A two-state solution is the only viable solution to the Middle East’s problems—or at least that one problem—but I don’t see how it will happen now. Nor do I really think, in my heart of hearts, that a two-state solution will stop Hamas’s attacks on Israel; after all, the Hamas charter itself calls for the complete elimination of that state.

According to the Telegraph, 900 academics and 4,000 people have signed a petition supporting the conference. That shows you the unique demonization of Israel in academica.

h/t: Coel


  1. colnago80
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Do the USA and Canada have the right to exist? After all, the areas which both nations occupy were stolen from the original inhabitants, Native Americans in the USA and First Nations in Canada by European settlers. Both Native Americans and First Nations were subjected to genocide by the invaders and, in fact, suffered much harsher treatment then did the Palestinians in what is now Israel. But, I guess, the statute of limitations has run out Native Americans and First Nations who are thus s*it out of luck.

    • John
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      With the stated objective of many in the arab world to eliminate Israel, combined with 21st century destructive power, events like this can venture into the realm of incitement to violence.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Not stolen in Canada – First Nations treaties in Canada are explicit deals with the Crown.

      • Diane G.
        Posted April 3, 2015 at 12:51 am | Permalink

        Were those treaties any better than US treaties?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 3, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

          I dunno how they all work. There is a lot of native self government here (hence the term First Nations). This is part of the legal entanglement with Makalya and JJ as First Nations have purview over medicine. Here are some generalized overviews.

          As an aside, the article mentions the Treaty of Waitangi – I visited Waitangi to enjoy Hone Heke’s flag pole. 🙂

          • Diane G.
            Posted April 3, 2015 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

            Sounds very similar, Diana. Our tribes/reservations are referred to as nations. They have their own police & justice systems. By & large it’s not working out well for them–low standard of living, of literacy, high rate of alcohol & drug abuse. Though some of the tribes with casino wealth have spread the riches around.

            But I was referring to the original treaties, which the Indians signed in good faith, only to have the US keep reneging on its promises. And of course they were often given some of the least valuable land to live on.

            I had to google that last reference–didn’t help that, though you obviously typed flag pole, my mind immediately read “totem pole!”

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 3, 2015 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

              Depends where. The reserve I live near is very nice and they have land along the river. They negotiated well with the crown. You also don’t have to live on the Rez to have status advantages.

              I do have strong opinions about the who,e system as I think overall it is harmful, but then again, when the English stole my ancestors’ land there were no treaties, just got booted out to Ireland the booted out to the new world.

              • Diane G.
                Posted April 4, 2015 at 1:23 am | Permalink

                Yes, this idea of separate “nations” isn’t helping anyone IMO. Of course they all want to keep their heritage & culture intact and we want them to, too.

                I can’t see that persisting forever though.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 4, 2015 at 7:39 am | Permalink

                It’s very sad because they really have lost so much of their culture that what they have is almost artificial. You can see it if you go to any native festivals – combination of Plains traditions mixed with eastern nomadic. A native friend says, “Oh well, it’s all mixed up”.

                Also, knowing lots of Maori I think the way things work in NZ is much better but the major difference is the Maori all speak one language and have one culture. Natives spoke different languages and had different cultures. Many came together in alliances after European contact. Most lost their language and their culture. Maoris OTOH speak their language – they went through a rough patch where it didn’t look good with European influence and racism but they came out pretty good.

                The thing that I think is most harmful, is natives are infantilized – not allowed to own land, etc. There are no reserves in NZ and Maoris are part of society. Sure, there are issues like there are everywhere but it is very different. You have to go there and experience it to really see how different (and better) it is.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted April 6, 2015 at 1:46 am | Permalink

                In fact NZ Maori have many different tribes (mostly based on which waka – canoes – their ancestors arrived on over a period of centuries) so many variants in customs and and many different dialects, but sufficiently close that they could all understand each others language. This means it is possible to standardise on one variant as ‘Maori’ which is obviously a huge advantage in promoting it.

          • Posted April 4, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

            The flagpole that Hone Heke chopped down four times, because of his dissatisfaction at the consequences of the Treaty, is at Kororāreka (Russell), not Waitangi. Some leftists made the same mistake c.1972 and blew up the Waitangi flagpole.

            ObZoo: Kororā reka means “sweet blue penguin”, from a chief’s last words, expressing satisfaction with his last meal.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 4, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

              It probably was Russell where I saw it then. It was a long time ago now since I went to North country and I get it all mixed up. It was so long ago that all my photos are on, gasp, film!

        • Posted April 7, 2015 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          Some of them have arguably been breached many times: see _Surviving as Indians_. Worse, the treaty would have almost certainly been misunderstood at the time of writing by the Native groups in question – no Canadian group that I know of except for a few on the coast had a comparable notion of property that would make sense of what the British were on about. Inuit, to pick one example (and a special case, since they are not “Indians” in the technical sense, but …) have no such notion. Property is either made for you, like your clothing (and hence worthless to anyone else), or it is communal. No land is regarded as property.

          Anyway, the more interesting thing in Canada right now is that some lands are neither treaty lands *nor* conquered. A lot of BC is like this.

          • Diane G.
            Posted April 8, 2015 at 12:25 am | Permalink

            Thanks for the further info, Keith.

            Re the BC lands–does that mean they’re in limbo? In contention?

            • Posted April 8, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              IANAL but it seems that constitutionally they are limbo. There are some groups challenging pipelines and such on these grounds, IIRC.

              • Diane G.
                Posted April 8, 2015 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

                It will be most interesting to watch how that plays out!

  2. Jeff Rankin
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Wait, what? It’s a conference on whether Israel has a right to exist, but only those on the “no” side were invited?

    Well, I guess it would be a quick conference: call for a vote, “Oh, it unanimous – Israel has no right to exist.” At that point, on what is there to confer?


    • Posted April 2, 2015 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      Well, I guess it would be a quick conference: call for a vote, “Oh, it unanimous – Israel has no right to exist.” At that point, on what is there to confer?

      My thoughts exactly. Shouldn’t it be called and anti-Israel rally?

  3. Malgorzata
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink


  4. Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Naturally, I cannot really be impartial, but still, but I cannot but disagree with Jerry that a university withdrawing its support from a a pseudo-academic conference aimed to provide “academic” justification to an antisemitic campaign is a matter of freedom of speech.
    The university cannot stop these people from spreading their propaganda, but it is not obliged to take part in it.
    Just as the UN condemning only Israel in a conference on women’s rights (yes, your read it right. It did not condemn Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and Sudan. Only Israel!) is damaging women’s right, the Southampton university would damage the academic fields of the conference by supporting it.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      “Pseudo-academic” – that’s a good term for it. I mean, what exactly is the goal? The output? Will people really be able to buy the “2015 Here’s why Israel Shouldn’t Exist” proceedings?

      Just sounds like a massive circle-j**k to me.

    • Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      I agree that the university wasn’t compelled to host this conference, which was a pretty bad idea, but once it did, it shouldn’t have withdrawn the conference on the grounds that it “offends people.” Same with Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Brandeis didn’t have to give her an honorary degree and a speaking platform at their commencement, but once they did it was a form of censorship to withdraw that invitation once they realized that some people would be offended by her presence and remarks.

      • Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

        There’s a big difference between this and what Brandeis did.
        This antisemitic gathering used the pretense of an academic conference. It did not meet the minimum standards of such a conference. The university made a mistake by agreeing to host it, and it did not have to continue with it to the bitter end just because it made the initial error. It would be a different story of the organizers admitted that it was a political bash-Israel party, and then I would support their right to do this, but their whole point is to provide an “academic” justification to the anti-Israeli propaganda.
        Brandeis’ only reason for its shameful behavior towards Hirsi Ali was fear of angering the Muslim mob and its supporters.

      • Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        It’s conceivable that the one-sided nature of this “conference” became apparent only at a fairly late date. After all, the title, while controversial, is within the bounds of legitimate subjects of discussion. Only after the list of speakers and, perhaps, talk titles became available would its actual nature be clear. This of course is pure speculation on my part.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the University changing its mind after getting better information. Then again, if this was simply a response to public protest, cancellation is a poor reaction. And the university should perhaps have been paying more attention to the nature of the conference before it got those complaints.

      • jeremyp
        Posted April 4, 2015 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        According to the University’s statement, it has cancelled the conference due to “risks to safety and public order”. i.e. nothing to do with offending people except insofar as too many offended people would be demonstrating at the University, leading to compromised safety and public order.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      If it had been a conference that genuinely discussed the idea looking at all sides of the argument, including the enormous suffering of Jews over centuries without their own place to call home, I wouldn’t have had a problem on the grounds of free speech. However, as it seems supporters of Israel would not have had any platform, let alone an equal platform, the university should never have endorsed it. The conference would have been an excuse for anti-Semites to spew their hatred, and imo that’s simply unacceptable.

      More useful would have been an academic conference with representatives from all sides seeing if they could come up with some ideas for a peaceful solution for the region. It seems obvious to me that a two state solution is the only one, but there are a lot of issues that have to be taken into account beyond that. They could have worked on some of those.

      • Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        “without their own place to call home”

        Does that apply to Jewish citizens of the United States. What is their place to call home?

        Does that apply to the Palestinians in the former Palestinian area and those who were expelled from their land?

        Sorry if you find these questions unfair.

        • Dave
          Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

          The questions aren’t unfair, but they are non-sequiturs.

          Jews in the USA are free to call that country their home, if they choose to do so. But the Jews of Europe also thought they were “at home” prior to 1933, and much good it did them. And of course Jews were persecuted and treated as pariahs throughout Europe and the Middle East/North Africa for centuries before the USA even existed.

          And as for the Palestinian Arabs, they could have had their own state decades ago if they’d been willing to make peace instead of dreaming of the day when they can finish the job Hitler started.

          • Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            As for the first part, does that mean that American Jews don’t trust their own government as to their own political rights and personal safety? Many may take exception to that.

            Excuse me but the Israeli government has made it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that they will NEVER accept a Palestinian state. It is Israel and Israel ALONE that has blocked a settlement (political that is).

            • Posted April 2, 2015 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

              No, it’s not “Israel and Israel alone that blocked a settlement”. The Arabs, and the Palestinians among them, who time and again tried to annihilate Israel and throw the Jews to the sea. The Palestinians could have their states several times, and rejected all opportunities.
              That’s the simple truth which you and your like refuse to acknowledge.

            • Rudyard Holmbast
              Posted April 2, 2015 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

              Nonsense. There has been more than one occasion in the past 25 years in which the Palestinians have torpedoed their chances at a state. Remember the negotiations spearheaded by Bill Clinton? Clearly you don’t. The Israelis were essentially ready to give Arafat everything he wanted, only to have him reject the concessions at the last minute. Your statement claiming that Israel and Israel alone is responsible for any and all failures to find a two-state solution is ahistorical bullsh*t.

      • steve oberski
        Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        I’m not convinced that the “enormous suffering of Jews over centuries without their own place to call home” is a more worthy conference topic and it is also a really bad reason for rationalizing the existence of Israel.

        There is not a single square foot of remotely desirable real-estate on this planet that is not soaked with the blood of former inhabitants who were slaughtered and turfed out by another group.

        The entire recorded history of our species is basically a chronicle of one group of people being being murdered by another group for their resources.

        Just look at the successive wave of immigrants fleeing Europe to North and South America.

        Those that were not fleeing religious or other forms of sectarian persecution were probably brought here as slaves, criminals or indentured servants.

        So I think that if the historic suffering of a group of people is to be deemed a good reason for the re-acquisition of formerly held real-estate, the Jews are just going to have to take a number and wait in line.

        Just like every other country/state in the world, Israel exists, and unless one is prepared to consistently deny the right of any country to exist then one can not deny the right of Israel to exist.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 2, 2015 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

          Jews found places they thought they could call home over and over again, only for the political climate to change and for huge numbers of them being murdered simply for existing or exiled. Now, Israel exists, and we need to find a way to make that work.

          There has always been fault on both sides in trying to reach a deal with the Palestinians. Making tallies of who committed the most faults isn’t likely to be helpful in moving forward except as a means of acknowledging and recognizing injustice and greivance.

          There are situations all over the world where unjust situations exist – some countries are solving them fairly and some aren’t. Each case deserves to be treated separately and not have comparisons made with situations elsewhere in an attempt to undermine the arguments in any other situation.

          • steve oberski
            Posted April 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

            It is my personal hope that that Israel continues to exist and that workable, long term agreement is reached between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

            In my opinion, the single greatest factor working against a tenable solution is the fact that both parties think that they have a historic right to the land in question and both think that they have incurred more injustices and have more grievances than the other.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted April 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

              Me too, and I agree.

            • Posted April 3, 2015 at 7:36 am | Permalink

              To me, the greatest factor working against a solution is that Arabs and many other Muslims have made it a question of honour not to recognize the existence of Israel.
              Another important factor is that other countries seem ready to go to any length to appease the enemies of Israel.

  5. Randy Schenck
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Just the concept alone is a very stupid idea. Having a meeting, a conference or a conversation about such a topic is damn stupid. Any students or people who wanted this in the first place are not thinking people – they are just trouble.

    Would like to have a meeting to see if Iowa should continue to exist. Maybe they belong in Illinois so lets reroute the Mississippi.

  6. Dylan Thomas Hayden
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I read an interesting article about this just this morning:

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Good article. Thanks.

  7. Todd
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    ‘after all, the Hamas charter itself calls for the complete elimination of that state.’

    It’s a good thing there are no major parties in Israel that explicitly call for the annexation of the Palestinian territories or your constant singling out of this would seem hypocritical.

    • steve oberski
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      It’s a good thing that in your careful research of the “constant singling out” issue you discovered recent posts by Prof. Coyne of this sort:

      I keep hoping that Israel and Palestine will sit down at the table and finally negotiate a two-state solution, but that favorable end seems further away all the time.


      They also know that I don’t think that the country is blameless in the Middle East fracas (the settlements, for example, are unconscionable)

      I assume that you would have had enough intellectual integrity to criticize Prof. Coyne’s actual position vis-a-vis the the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 5:53 am | Permalink

      You don’t see the difference here, do you? At any rate, you’re rude, you’ve distorted my position on this issue, and you can go distort positions at someone else’s site.

      Seriously, do you think the charter or constitution of Israel calls for the elimination of Palestine, or that it incorporates hateful and lying doctrine like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion–something also in the Hamas Charter.

      As for your remark that I’m a hypocrite, well, see the Roolz.

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Given the vast difference between the plight of the “other” population in these two cases (many Arabs live in Israel as citizens, while no Jew can survive in Palestinian territories), it is your comment that would seem hypocritical to me.

  8. nickswearsky
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    How does a university go about hosting a conference like this? Who makes the call?

    Wasn’t it not long ago University of Chicago ended up hosting an intelligent design talk?

  9. Posted April 2, 2015 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Indonesia has killed somewhere between 100,000 and 800,000 people in Irian Jaya over the same time span as Israel’s existence, stolen virtually an entire country, is systematically destroying an entire culture, and has caused horrendous environmental destruction through mining and logging.

    But that doesn’t fit the standard “rich white guys oppress poor brown people” narrative that the left is fixated on, so they are conceptually unequipped to know how to deal with it.

    (Or rather, they’ll condemn it, but in a separate mental compartment from the special category “Israeli war crimes” which is seen as qualitatively different and uniquely heinous.)

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:22 am | Permalink

      “But that doesn’t fit the standard “rich white guys oppress poor brown people” narrative that the left is fixated on, so they are conceptually unequipped to know how to deal with it.”


    • Posted April 7, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Well, the US has supported various regimes in Indonesia over the years as well; I seem to remember reading (historically – I wasn’t alive at the time) what happened with Suharto, for example. So there, as is often the case, it is “rich brown people supported by big power oppress poor brown people”. (Think Soviet Afghanistan, if you want another example from “another side”.)

      It doesn’t get as much press, I’ll grant. Why? I can speculate, but does it matter?

      • Posted April 7, 2015 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        I chose that example to add some perspective. Israel’s crimes, human rights abuses and land theft are an order of magnitude lesser than what Indonesia has done and continues to do, yet how often does one hear of it in the press or from the left?

        I have no problem with people condemning the crimes of Israel, but I sense a complete lack of proportion from many critics of Israel. No one in the UK or Europe or US starts yelling at Indonesians when they see them on the street; no one is calling for a boycott of Indonesia.

        I argue that it is an irrational hatred of Israel that motivates many on the left. I’ve lost friends because I’ve visited Israel many times and for a long time was in a relationship with someone who lived there. I can’t imagine such vitriol being directed at me by people I’ve known for years if I had have had an Indonesian girlfriend.

        I’ve tried talking to them sensibly but they just start shouting slogans and saying things like “The Arabs will find their own Final Solution.” I know of no other ethnic group that is spoken of in this way.

        (NB, I’m not suggesting people should brick the Indonesian Embassy either!)

  10. Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    What is a right to exist, anyway? Under what circumstances does a country have a right to exist, and under what circumstances does it not? Does Palestine have a right to exist? Does the USSR? The Confederate States of America? Czechoslovakia? Can anyone clarify?

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      There are certainly some difference to this question depending on what state you name. Certainly the USSR and Czechoslovakia have a right to exist because they do. Palestine as a state would also if it can get there. The Confederate states, not at all. They were part of the United States because the people of those territories wanted to become states and voted to do so. Once they were in, there is only one way out. The United States must let you out and that did not happen. Lincoln basically said this in 1860/61. They had no right to leave as the state did not exist until the United States made them states and only the United States could let them go. It was illegal and probably treason.

      Thanks for asking ….it is a good question.

      • Posted April 2, 2015 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

        Pretty sure the USSR and Czechoslovakia don’t exist. When’s the last time you checked a world map? Do any states that don’t currently exist have a right to exist, or is current existence a requirement? What if the state once existed but doesn’t any longer?

        And as for the CSA, can you cite a constitutional basis for the absence of a right to secede? I think you’ll find no such prohibition. (Oddly, there was one in the Confederate constitution.) Lincoln’s legal justification was shaky. It seems the right to exist may depend on who gets to decide, possibly on who wins the war.

        So what gives a country the right to exist?

      • Posted April 3, 2015 at 7:50 am | Permalink

        I agree with Popper that, in deciding state borders (and presumably the right of a state to exist), we must keep in mind first the rights of human beings, who are the real entities to be protected (rather than the states that have no natural borders). By this criterion, Israel definitely has a right to exist because it is the only state where the right of Jews to exist is truly recognized.

        • Posted April 3, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          I’m not clear on that. Why isn’t the USA, among others, a state where the right of Jews to exist is truly recognized?

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          Because in other countries they’d have, at best, only human rights.

  11. Frankensense
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Not to sound frivolous, but I assume ‘War Two’ was a deliberate Cunkism ? Ah, Philomena……

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:26 am | Permalink

      More likely an accidental omission. The meaning is clear, anyway.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Cunkism. Definitely.

  12. muffy
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:16 pm | Permalink


  13. morkindie
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I think it would have been worth while to let the people speak their mind and have their little circle jerk.
    It’s so easy to identify an idiot. just let them speak.
    Then perhaps someone could take the transcript and make a counter argument.
    All of this could have been avoided if the University agreed to the meeting only if there was a strong representative for the opposition. But that is hardly essential.

    University officials: “Look, they said they wanted to have a discussion. It’s not our fault that they just stood around agreed with each other.”

    • Posted April 2, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      The whole purpose of this so called “academic conference” is to provide “academic” justifications for the antisemitic campaign against the Jewish state.
      It’s not about expanding knowledge of the subject, true exchange of ideas or education. People have the right to be idiots, but an academic conference it wasn’t meant to be. The university did the right thing in deciding in the last moment to not associate itself with the anti Israeli mob.

  14. James Chalmers
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    The principle being invoked is: each and every academic conference regarding X must include presentations of the entire range of views held on the issue considered? I wonder how many conferences fail this test. I wonder also if conferences that take for granted the legitimacy of the state of Israel and the acceptability of the present status of the West Bank and Gaza aren’t fairly common,and those that don’t rather infrequent. Does that matter? Also, it’s by no means clear that all participants in the conference would deny the legitimacy of the state of Israel.

  15. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I think the premise of the conference was stupid. Israel exists. Even if one thinks it exists for a stupid reason or didn’t agree with the reasons or whatever, it still exists. The real question we have to ask is how we all move forward from there. Constantly asking this existence questions gets us nowhere.

    • Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      I am not sure about this.
      Of course, this won’t Israel go away, but it does delegitimize it. It provides ammunition to the BDS and other anti-Israeli movements. Some organizations of academics already boycott Israel and the pressure on stores selling Israeli products is growing.
      Inside Israel, this only strengthens our always present siege mentality and the sense that “the world is against us”. With this, it’s hard to convince people here that we need to take risks for peace.
      For the Palestinians, this suggests that they can get Israel under pressure and get what they want without compromising.
      All in all, I think it’s extremely counter productive if one wants to encourage both sides to make the necessary concessions to finally reach the two states solution (which, as an Israeli, I think is a very urging Israeli interest).

  16. Gordon
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    The subject matter of the conference is a topic of some interest in international law and politics and is a perfectly legitimate subject of inquiry. The foundation of Israel took place at a somewhat unusual period and raises some important and interesting questions of international law as do subsequent events in that area
    That point is of course separate from the structure of the conference in question which I take from the publicity to be somewhat dodgy- although at this point I did pause to look at the programme etc ( and wondered if the opposition had become a little overheated/overcooked which is not unusual when such topics are aired. No doubt anyone interested can look and make up their own mind-indeed I would strongly recommend readers do. I have now looked up a few of the speakers and they seem to be very respectable and serious academics and the ones I looked at seemed to have some divergence of views. One of the organisers George Bisharat, a quite reputable legal academic is obviously strongly pro-Palestinian although his work seems no more one-sided than the odd pro-Israeli legal academic I have come across. However my impression was that the Torygraph may have overstated things somewhat.

    That being said I would make two general points. One is that universities do not in most democratic countries approve the subject matter of conferences-they are organised by academics and any university that values either freedom of speech or freedom of inquiry does not act as a censor- a principle that is under some pressure from execrable ‘no-platform’ type campaigns and the increasing tendency of university managers to invent spurious excuses to give in to such pressures.

    The second is that it is great to see Jerry standing up for freedom of expression, not for the first time, given that this fracas concerns a topic which is one that he clearly has very strong feelings on-it is an example we should be proud of and seek to emulate. Fight ideas with ideas and sooner or later those that are untenable become increasingly marginalised. Sunlight remains the best disinfectant.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      Your comments probably sound okay to some but I don’t see it. Israel is as much a country in standing as any other. It was recognized by the United States, the UN and many other countries back around 1948.

      You could probably have a conference to question the Existence of the U.S. as much or more so than Israel. It was basically stolen from the native Americans and much of it from Mexico. Maybe we should give it all back and leave. We could all go back to England where we came from….right.

      • Doug
        Posted April 2, 2015 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

        But does England have a right to exist? It as created when the Angles and Saxons [Germans] conquered Britain and pushed the natives into what is now Wales.

        “All the territorial possessions of all the political establishments in the earth–including America, of course”–consist of pilferings of other people’s wash. No tribe, howsoever insignificant, and no nation, howsoever mighty, occupies a foot of land that was not stolen.”-Mark Twain

        • Michael Waterhouse
          Posted April 3, 2015 at 12:10 am | Permalink

          Then came the Normans.
          Originally Vikings.

      • Gordon
        Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:38 am | Permalink

        That really was my point. The process by which Israel was recogised was fairly unusual and in a context of increased importance of international law. It is the recognition of Israel in that recent context that makes it legally and politically interesting and quite a different case from say pre-1914 examples.

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      How many conferences are scheduled to debate the legitimacy of Jordan or Saudi Arabia? How many have ever occurred?

  17. James Chalmers
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

    Three short answers to “Why Israel, why not North Korea, etc.”?
    1. Israel is alone in occupying territory in defiance of international law.
    2. Benny Morris and others have provided done a great deal of research on the origins of this state, giving a lot to react to.
    3. Why not other countries indeed? One might well run conferences of them.
    There seems to some confusion between anti-Semitism and investigations of the conduct of a state.
    What happened in Southampton is a gross violation of what academic freedom is all about. Is there any doubt of that? (Recall the reception of great scientific advances, like Copernicus’. I suspect a conference on his theories could easily have met a reception like that the one in Southampton received. There’s allegedly a very bad sort of procedural error that’s occurred here. It can’t easily be refuted by offhand views about the subject matter, when the those propounding the views haven’t, can’t possibly have, heard the papers presented to judge their content. One cannot possibly judge of their substance if one hasn’t heard them. Or so it seems to me. But at Southampton the keepers of the flame of liberty have hastily and pusillanimously blown it out. This is pretty ordinary and easily recognizable case of the sort of thing Mill taught us to be on guard against, yet another case of those who preen themselves on giving a listen before judging determining that they know precisely what conclusions will be reached and that these conclusions are insupportable,so insupportable that rather than being satirized or refuted, they are to be suppressed, to (so far as the keepers are able) be denied even to heard. It’s prior restraint, pure and simple, and in the last place it should be permitted.

    • Malgorzata
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:46 am | Permalink

      Somebody already reminded you about Turkey and Cyprus, Russia and Crimea, Indonesia and East Timor. I would just like to add China and Tibet and Morocco and West Sahara. There are surely more but there is so little written and talked about anybody else – after all, no time is left when Israel has to be discussed for hours – that it is so easy to forget…

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 8:06 am | Permalink

      The international law changed many times with regards to Israel, by pressure furst from Jews and then by increasingly more powerful Arabs. At some time, a Jewish state called “Palestine” was to exist side by side with an Arab state called “Transjordan”. Then, Jordan was created but it turned out that not the whole “Palestine” was to be given to be a Jewish state, just a part of it. So “international law” depends on the moment you decide to look on UN decisions.
      The fact is that, regardless of the pre-1948 situation, Arab countries after 1948 expelled their Jews to Israel, so it was only fair to consider the affair as a bilateral population transfer and to recognize Israel.
      Another fact is that Jews have only Israel to live safely in, with anti-Semites violently attacking them throughout Europe and now also in Canada. But I see that you don’t care about whether Jews live or are slaughtered, so I won’t use this as an argument.

  18. Karen
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad I found this blog. But, I’m tired today. Maybe not at my best, but I’ll be back. I would just like to say, though, that the topic is of importance when you have a people who do not care what the facts are, believe they can do no wrong and are powerful enough to impose their will on others.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      Welcome, Karen

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Citizen Coyne that it was wrong for the university to cancel the conference. If there were concerns about the safety of anyone involved — always the first facially-neutral refuge of scoundrels indisposed to free expression in the first place — the answer is always to provide adequate security, never to slink away and concede victory to free-speech’s enemies.

    Should there have been a more-balanced panel of speakers? Absolutely; that’s how the marketplace-of-ideas thrives best. But failing that, the solution is to schedule a competing conference — or failing that, to arrange a protest of the conference that does take place. I have confidence in the power of a true, justified idea to get itself accepted. I care not if it’s one skinny, pimply-faced freshman handing out homemade pamphlets outside an ivory tower full of well-healed academics (although I’ve seen how even wealthy academics are shod; it’s not that impressive), if the kid has the idea that is right and true, the idea supported by evidence and justified rational analysis, it and the kid will prevail.

    Moreover, even beyond the need for ideological completion, it’s crucial that bad ideas be revealed in all their underlying meretriciousness; exposure is where bad ideas go to die. The worse the idea, the greater the need for its dissemination, so everyone can see — and, most especially, so those with the tools and skills to dismantle it can expose — the idea for its effete impoverishment. All the greater is the need where the bad idea is fueled by vile ethnic or racial hatred. In the end, the only cure for such noxious effluvia is the quintessential disinfectant of fresh air and sunshine.

    That’s my operative theory on free speech at least, and it’s the only one I see with a shot at viability. Could it be wrong? Maybe. But if it is, then (to very loosely paraphrase J.M. Keynes) in the long run we’re all f*cked anyway.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:47 am | Permalink

      “…although I’ve seen how even wealthy academics are shod; it’s not that impressive…”

      That would have worked a bit better had you spelled “heel” correctly.


      Agree with your theory of free speech, as I think most here do.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted April 3, 2015 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        Yeah, I noticed the “-heal” misspelling after I posted the comment. What happened was I had my aperçu about the punch-line as soon as I saw that “well-heeled” created opportunity, then rushed through the set-up to get to the joke.

        I do that, unfortunately.

        • Diane G.
          Posted April 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

          I should have such fancy typo excuses.

  20. Posted April 2, 2015 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    1) Reeeeeaaally? What about Turkey and Cyprus, Russia and Crimea, Indonesia and East Timor? And Israel illegally occupying Tel Aviv and Haifa? Because the question “Does Israel has a right to exist” applies to those places – if the conference wanted to question the legality of occupation, it should have posed the question as “does Israel have the right to occupy West Bank?”

    • Gordon
      Posted April 3, 2015 at 1:32 am | Permalink

      Interestingly one of the speakers does seem to have published on East Timor.

  21. quiscalus
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    The whole world has gone bat-sh!t crazy. I don’t know what else it could be, other than some sort of pandemic of stupid-virus. Cheese slid well off the cracker, for the whole damn lot.

    as for me, if we’re doing crazy, and it seems that’s the latest fashion these days, I suggest not that Israel has the right to exist, or that Palestine has the right to exist, not a one-state solution nor a two-state solution, how about a NO-State solution? What the hell are nation-states anyway? Who Cares? They shouldn’t be any more important that your zip code. No more “I’m American” “I’m English” “Je suis de France”, how about, “I’m Chris, nice to meet you.” Not a person of the nation, state, city, neighborhood, street, race, culture, or any of that bollocks, a person of the cosmos. and yeah, i’m bat-sh!t crazy too, but let’s hug, sing kumbaya or however you spell that dumb song, and i’ll have another glass of wine and moar soup, too. you’ll welcome to join me, no matter which side of the stupid mudball you come from. cheers.

  22. Posted April 2, 2015 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Well said. The question of existence for any nation or person is absurd. Yes, even North Korea has a right to exist, though they have no right to oppress their citizens. The answer to oppression, perceived or otherwise is not to oppress the oppressor.

  23. Marella
    Posted April 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    I support a three state solution; give the West Bank to Jordan and the Gaza strip to Egypt.

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Amen! I’ve suggested this years ago:

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Are you kidding? They don’t want those Palestinians in their countries either!

    • Posted April 3, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      “give the West Bank to Jordan and the Gaza strip to Egypt.”

      What makes you think Jordan or Egypt would accept? They don’t want those pleasant folks in their country either. Plus, actually finding peace in the Middle East has not been, is not, and evidently will never be part of the political agenda.

      • Marella
        Posted April 3, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        I expect you’re right, but maybe they could be persuaded by the UN if people actually talked about the idea.

      • Posted April 7, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        More the point – what would make one think that this would be acceptable *to the people who live there*?

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted April 3, 2015 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    As to the underlying issue regarding Israel’s right to exist, let me venture this: It is impossible to read even lightly in world history without being struck by the need for a Jewish homeland. Was the Eastern Mediterranean littoral in 1948 the right place to put it? Whatever nice questions that issue may once have triggered, they need not be labored over now, as the fact of the matter is that that particular ship has sailed. And it won’t be returning to port — anymore than will be the MS St. Louis, the ocean liner that transported the so-called “Voyage of the Damned.” Although these two ships do not sail in tandem, both traversed the point no return long ago and, for related reasons that should be plain to all of understanding and goodwill, neither will be passing this way again.*

    As to the ultimate solution to the Israel-Palestine troubles (I prefer the Irish term for the bitter, ugly internecine civil war that plagued its North — “The Troubles” — since, as homicidal as that dispute could turn, the term yet suggests, at some indeterminate but fundamental level, that both sides are in it together), I claim no special expertise, and geo-strategic decisions impacting international relations are generally beyond my pay-grade.**

    But picking up on the analysis in my comment above, I will proffer this as a true, justified idea: The Israeli-Palestinian dispute must resolve to a two-state solution — the alternatives to this are too dire for people of humanitarian impulse to abide.

    Problem is, as I see it (though, again, I claim no esoteric expertise), there is a lack of the wrought-iron political will and visionary leadership needed to accomplish a two-state solution, now or in the immediate future — a lack of will and leadership on both sides’ part. (It is possible that there exits some nascent movement capable of providing the requisite will and leadership, which has yet to achieve the critical mass required to register on my crude, pre-Doppler radar; I hope so, for all involved, and hope that any such movement blossoms rapidly.)

    The current political leadership — again, on both sides — shows no sign of even being able to move the ball down the field in a meaningful manner. Political leaders, on both sides, seem too vested in, if not the status quo exactly, then the near-status quo — in obtaining small political advantage for themselves, for their parties, for those within their respective polities to whom they are politically beholden. This might strike one as petty, were it not so tragic.

    The natural human impulse — or at least my natural human impulse — when confronted by such intransigence, and by the lack of will to effect change, is to direct anathema at each side: “a pox on both your houses.” Here, however, too many simple, innocent people are already suffering, too many more face peril if this wound is not healed — people throughout the region certainly, perhaps even (if the situation should go full conflagration) people across the planet — to here hurl curses at the malefactors.

    So I will spring to buy a vowel, upgrading the one in “pox” to that with pride of place in the Latin alphabet. I say to both sides, with all the sincerity I can muster: pax be upon you, and upon your opponent. May you — and if not you, then your soon-to-be successors — make pax with each other, with those you now call enemy. And I bid you both godspeed in bringing this pax about.

    *I confess to a certain unease with this entire topic, an unease unrelated to the ethnicity or religion of the peoples involved, unrelated as well to any recent history in the region — and much less to the region’s ancient history or to the content of supposedly holy books or claimed existence of supernatural beings. My unease has to do solely with my an inability to fix upon an intellectually sound justification for man to lay claim to exclusive dominion over land in the first place. I have no problem with people owning personal property — that which man hath wrought from his labors let him keep, or trade, or sell, or otherwise acquire and dispense as society sees collectively fit. But how can we humans claim ownership over any of god’s green earth, or god’s buff-colored dessert earth (as the case may be), or god’s frozen earth lying beneath god’s white sheets of ice? By what justification does a man, or mankind collectively, purport to own that which existed before our ancestors first trod upon it bipedally? The air over all land claimed as private property is befouled by its usurpation from others, as is often the land below it befouled by their blood. (I recognized that such issues have been pondered since time immemorial by minds much greater — and, certainly, more focused — than my own, likely since some Cro-Magnon man first claimed a cave as his private dacha, and since some coeval of a philosophical bent undertook either to justify or oppose his primeval land grab).

    Where I come down ultimately is that the private ownership of real property can be justified on pragmatic grounds alone. I understand the Tragedy of the Commons and the need (particularly in modern, populous societies)to employ private enterprise to put property to sufficient purpose that it generates wealth and wellbeing for individual humans and humankind at large. Yet there exists an even more fundamental and pragmatic justification: Like everything else in the accessible universe — like everything else, that is, made ultimately of fermions — homo sapiens sapiens exist in three spatial dimensions and one of time. This mandates that we occupy space — and, as we are terrestrial animals, that space will necessarily find us on land. Hey, we all gotta be somewhere, right?

    **I generally take comfort in knowing that such momentous decisions (those affecting the broad sweep of history, perhaps the repurposing of large swaths of land, even the relocation of substantial populations of my fellow human beings) will not be made by me — not made by someone, that is, who’s still iffy about the wash and rinse cycles of his Kenmore automatic clothes washer, even while its extended warranty is on the cusp of expiry. Yet this comfort is offset by a Weltschmerz-ian anxiety that the people making such world-shaking decisions may not themselves by entirely sympatico with their own major appliances — may be people no more competent than me, you, or the guy sitting next to us on the bus to fashion sound and just decisions on matters so significant. But, hey, somebody’s gotta grab the pointy projections on the male bovine’s head and make a decision, right?

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