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We call upon the University of Southampton to distance itself from the upcoming conference on Israel’s right to exist by removing it from campus, in order to avoid giving the event credibility and official approval to bigotry and Antisemitism.

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               Israel’s Right to Exist: A Non-Debatable Issue

We the undersigned call upon the University of Southampton to distance itself from the upcoming conference on Israel’s right to exist by removing it from campus, in order to avoid giving the event credibility and official approval to bigotry and Antisemitism.

We are deeply disturbed that the conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism,” is scheduled to take place at the University of Southampton April 17-19, 2015. 

This conference is the latest effort by the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign [BDS] to use academia as a tool to delegitimize and demonize Israel, the Middle East’s only democracy.  The conference organizers are explicit about this goal, boasting that the conference “is unique because 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.”  The featured speakers are notorious for their anti-Zionist, anti-Israel bias, and for their defamations of the Jewish state, some of which equate it with Nazi Germany.

Criticizing Israeli policies is acceptable in debate, but denying its right to exist veers into Antisemitism.  As French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared: “Antisemitism, this old European disease…hides itself behind a fake anti-Zionism.”  It discriminates against the Jewish people, denying them the right to self-determination which is enshrined in international law. Such historic prejudice lies behind much BDS activity.

In deference to the principle of freedom of speech, we are not calling for cancellation of the conference.  Nor are we calling for a more balanced program. Such bigotry cannot be balanced. The question of Israel’s existence should not be dignified with a response or defense.  We know that one or two speakers will support Israel, but in a program of over 80 speakers, this is sheer tokenism.

Instead, we call on the University of Southampton to have the conference relocated from its premises so that the University and the Parkes Institute can regain their credibility  and reputation and not appear  to give their approval to Antisemitism as defined under the FRA / EUMC working definition of Antisemitism.

We the undersigned call upon the University of Southampton to distance itself from the upcoming conference on Israel’s right to exist by removing it from campus, in order to avoid giving the event credibility and  bigotry and Antisemitism.

It is regrettable that the administration failed to consider the University’s historically close links with Anglo-Jewry when it approved the conference. Both the University of Southampton’s archives and the esteemed Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish /non-Jewish Relations contain the largest Holocaust library in Europe as well as thousands of archives documenting the history of Anglo-Jewry, including the period when the State of Israel was established.

The University of Southampton has a duty to its students and staff to ensure they work and study in an atmosphere free from discrimination, victimization, and harassment, as well as to advance equality of opportunity and to foster good relations between ethnic and religious groups.

 



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