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, expresses its support for the organisers of the International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism conference which was due to take place on 17-19 April 2015, at the University of Southampton, UK. The University blocked the conference citing reasons of ‘health and safety’. In doing so, it has succumbed to pressure from Israel lobby organizations (including the Zionist Federation and the Board of Deputies of British Jews), who were backed by politicians such as former Conservative education secretary Michael Gove and the current Communities minister Eric Pickles.
The organisers took the case to the High Court and in her judgment Judge Alice Robinson upheld the university’s position and argued that the organisers’ academic freedom had not been impinged upon because participants could express their positions at another conference, but not at this particular conference, at this particular time.
This conference was of particular importance, not merely because of the participation of a wide range of Israeli, Palestinian and international scholars, but mostly because of the inclusion of legal scholars who were set to publicly discuss, perhaps for the first time, Israel’s very legitimacy. Its cancellation sets a precedent in terms of the topics discussed, but also because it signals the narrowing of the academic freedom of expression, a crucial issue in relation to the control that the state of Israel exercises upon its Palestinian citizens and occupied subjects in historic Palestine.
Academics for Palestine is committed to defending academic freedom, exposing the collaboration of Israeli higher education institutions with Israel’s military and armament industries and building the academic boycott of Israel until such time as it ends the occupation of Palestine and allows Palestinians to practice their basic human and academic rights. We protest against the University of Southampton’s cowardly and short sighted decision and the High Court’s upholding this decision, and we look forward to the reinstatement of this important conference in the near future.
For Academics for Palestine AfP:
Jim Roche, Dublin Institute of Technology, Chair
Dr. David Landy, Trinity College Dublin, Secretary
Dr. Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin, PRO