According to a statement released by conference organisers on 31 March, the University of Southampton is withdrawing its consent to host the forthcoming conference ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’, due to take place on 17-19 April 2015, citing as reasons concerns about ‘health and safety’.
Academics for Palestine, a group of Irish academics – from both the Republic of Ireland and the North of Ireland – set up to create awareness and build the academic boycott of Israel campaign in Ireland, urges the University of Southampton to allow the conference to proceed as planned.
We believe there is ample time for any concerns regarding the safety and security of university staff, students, and conference participants to be adequately addressed. We also believe that the University of Southampton, which for several weeks has resisted pressure from the Zionist lobby citing its full commitment to academic freedom, must now fulfil its legal obligations to protect free speech and academic discussion, values to which the conference organisers and all conference participants are committed.
To cancel the conference on the grounds of concerns about ‘health and safety’ shows weakness in the face of external pressure and bullying, and calls into question the University of Southampton’s genuine commitment not only to academia and the professional activities of its own scholars, but also to the precious tradition of free speech itself.
We join thousands of academics throughout the world who have signed a petition in calling upon the University of Southampton to reverse its decision and allow the conference to go ahead as planned.
Jim Roche, Dublin Institute of Technology, Chair
Dr David Landy, Trinity College Dublin, Secretary
Dr Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin, PRO
Academics for Palestine