Bittersweet Reception to Cancelation of Anti-Israel Hatefest at Southampton University
The UK’s Southampton University faced continued criticism on Thursday after it canceled an anti-Israel conference aimed at questioning Israel’s legitimacy.
“Southampton University’s statement is an embarrassment on all counts,” NGO Monitor Executive Director Gerald Steinberg told The Algemeiner on Thursday. “These officials should have denounced the event in terms of its substance — a pseudo-academic conference to promote hate against Israel and the Jewish people.
“Instead of acknowledging the damage to the university’s image and donor income, they invented a threat of violence from protesters, which is patently false and demeaning.”
Southampton University was scheduled to hold the conference on April 17-19 entitled, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism.” According to its official description, the event concerned Israel’s right to exist and would have focused on “exploring themes of Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism; all of which are posed by Israel’s very nature.”
After receiving sustained backlash regarding the conference’s subject matter, Southampton University released a statement on Thursday saying they were “obligated” to cancel the event “because of risks to safety and public order at and near the conference.”
Like Steinberg, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, also believes the university’s administration should have spoken up against the conference in addition to canceling it.
“Of course it would’ve been a lot better if the head of the university said we’re not in business to sit down and have discussions about the disappearance off the face of the earth of democracies,” he told The Algemeiner. “The academic bigots who hate Israel and hate the Jewish state will have to go shop their wares somewhere else, and they will.”
Cooper said the initial scheduling of the event shows how far anti-Israel supporters have come in their efforts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. He said enemies of Israel who cannot and have not won in direct battle on the merits of their arguments are instead “pushing forward in the asymmetrical war on campuses, universities, churches and other international venues.”
“This is a very, very, very important defeat – not so much a victory for us,” he said about the event’s cancelation, “but a defeat of those who are trying to literally set the stage for the destruction and disappearance of the Jewish state. Nobody should be patting themselves on the back. It’s a wake up call and a reminder to everyone going into Pesach that these kinds of attacks will continue.”
In its statement, Southampton University said it was impressed by the “commitment” of event organizers to include a “broad spectrum of views,” a claim which Steinberg believes is “clearly absurd.” He said that events like this one often “exploit the language of ‘international law'” and most of the speakers are “radical ideologues affiliated with fringe NGOs — the modern political equivalent of alchemists claiming to convert lead into gold.”
The event’s organizers included Southampton University professor Oren Ben-Dor, whom Cooper described as “an Israeli who wants to see the end of Israel, or a former Israeli.” Cooper said further that he was outraged by the university’s praise for people who have the “chutzpah” to promote the discussion of a nation’s disappearance. He said the notion that they would praise anyone involved with “such a hateful despicable undertaking is disappointing to say the least.”
“Are they going to praise the Al-Shabaab terrorists today who are fully committed when they murdered 147 Christian students in Kenya, asking them first if they were Christian or Muslim?” Cooper asked. “Will the head of the university also praise them for their commitment? The Nazis were committed, Al-Qaida is committed, Al-Shabaab is committed. They’re all committed to their views. If you can’t take a basic moral stand of where the red line is drawn you have got a problem.”