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April 1, 2015 10:46 am

Human Rights Group Slams Southampton University Conference on Israel’s Legitimacy, Says Agenda ‘Redolent of Nazism’

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

The front of Avenue Campus, University of Southampton. Photo: Wikipedia.

Major Jewish human rights group the Simon Wiesenthal Center on Monday criticized an upcoming conference to be held at the UK’s Southampton University that questions Israel’s right to exist.

“First, it fails what I call the ‘Preference versus Prejudice Test:’ a preference for an alternative government of Israel is legitimate. A desire for its replacement by a ‘State of Palestine’ reflects a prejudice denying the right of sovereignty to the Jewish people,” the Center’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, said in a letter to the UK university. “Among the 195 member-states of the United Nations, only Israel is so singled out.”

Samuels warned that in holding the event, Southampton University is allowing itself to be “hijacked” by an agenda that implies genocidal malice toward Israel. He said the event also “sets a dangerous precedent for ‘state-nations’ in Africa, Latin America and even Europe” and will aid in the “identity theft of the Jewish narrative,” which he said, according to the European Union Working Definition, “can be described by only one word: ‘Antisemitism.'”

The conference, scheduled to take place April 17-19 , is entitled, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism.” The event is described as “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.”

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Samuels said the event is not an academic debate, but rather a political move to delegitimize Israel and “delete from the map the
sovereign state of the Jewish People.” He told the university that this form of denunciation is “redolent of Nazism” and invokes “contemporary nationalist and rightist extremism.” He urged the university to take the appropriate measures to prevent such abuse of “Southampton University’s good name.”

A number of unconfirmed reports on Tuesday stated that the conference had been cancelled in light of the backlash it received. Event organizers released a statement claiming the University of Southampton told them on Monday “that it intends to withdraw its permission to hold the academic conference on International Law and the State of Israel.” However on Tuesday morning, Southampton University said it had yet to make a final decision about the conference and that its status was “under review,” the UK’s The Telegraph reported.

“The University of Southampton is in discussion with the organizers of the conference ‘International Law and the State of Israel’ about the possibility of withdrawing permission for the event to be held on campus,” a spokesperson said. “However, this review process is still ongoing. Any decision will be judged purely on considerations around the health and safety of our staff, students and for the general public.”

Oren Ben-Dor, a professor at the school and one of the event organizers, said the institution’s operating officer told him on Monday that the program would not be allowed to take place, according to The Guardian. Blogger Elder of Ziyon alleged that conference organizers heard about potential security issues at the event and therefore lied about the program being cancelled “in order to help their case.” The event planners also enlisted the anti-Israel publication Electronic Intifada to help spread the false claims, according to the blogger.

“By announcing that the conference was canceled, and coupling that with a threat of legal action, they can force the university to either deny the news outright or to worry about the threats in case they were leaning towards cancellation,” the blogger said. “It also  gives the haters a chance to pressure the university.”

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