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December 22, 2016 3:22 pm

Irish University’s Decision to Host Conference Calling for Elimination of Jewish State Provides Cloak of Academic Legitimacy for Antisemitism, Say Israel Advocates

avatar by Lea Speyer

University College Cork campus. Photo: University College Cork.

University College Cork campus. Photo: University College Cork.

An Irish university’s decision to host a conference calling for the elimination of the Jewish state provides activists the opportunity to hide their antisemitism behind a cloak of academic legitimacy, members of Israel-advocacy groups told The Algemeiner.

Referring to the upcoming “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility” conference at University College Cork, a spokesman from the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland (JRCI) called the event “no more than an anti-Israel hate-fest.”

“We note with considerable dismay and concern that this event now appears to have found a home in Cork. Experience has shown that where a narrative aimed at the destruction of the Jewish state is allowed to flourish, antisemitism follows,” he said.

A member of the Irish4Israel advocacy group concurred, expressing dismay that such “hatred” is still found in Ireland.

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The group said that it is not pushing for the program to be cancelled, but “hope[s] that UCC will ensure balance and fairness and allow both sides to be heard, which could result in a far more successful conference, rather than creating an anti-Israel echo chamber.” However, by press time, Irish4Israel told The Algemeiner, “The university has not engaged with us, which is hugely disappointing.”  

Dr. Denis MacEoin, chairman of North-East Friends of Israel in England and a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute, has been closely monitoring the activities of the conference since it was first introduced in 2015. He told The Algemeiner, “The whole thing is rigged, because it is thoroughly biased in one direction, with only two pro-Israel speakers out of 45.”

“The aim of the conference is clearly political — to destroy or delegitimize Israel — and it cannot claim to be academic and disinterested,” he said. “A lot of people around the world won’t spot the inherent bias of the conference, and will think it is presenting perfect academic evidence for the evils of Israel, leading to support for calls for it to be wiped out.”

UCC, MacEoin told The Algemeiner, “cannot claim to be a bastion of academic research” if it is willing to open its doors to “such overt, politicized bias onto its campus.”

“The university has a profound ethical responsibility not to contaminate unbiased academic work by hosting an unethical conference,” he added.

According to conference organizers, the aim of the event is to:

expand the debate surrounding the nature of the state of Israel and the legal and political reality within it. The conference will raise questions that link the suffering in historic Palestine to the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature. It aims to generate a debate on legitimacy, exceptionalism and responsibility under international law as provoked by the nature of the Israeli state.

The conference was originally scheduled to take place last year at the University of Southampton in Britain, but was met with heavy objections on the part of students, alumni and Jewish and Israel advocacy groups. One petition calling on the university to cancel — launched by the Zionist Federation UK — garnered more than 6,700 signatures.

When Southampton rescinded its invitation, conference organizers blamed Jewish and pro-Israel groups, saying the incident was a “chilling repression of academic freedom,” and filed, and lost, two separate suits against the university.

Themes for the upcoming conference include examining how the “Jewish nature of the state has profoundly affected the economic, constitutional, political and social life of…non-Jewish Arabs;” how “‘Jewish’ nationality bestows some vital privileges;” the “possibility of the exclusion of non-Jewish citizens of Israel by racial gerrymandering…;the existence of two layers of Israeli citizenship; and an inherent differential between Jews and non-Jews.”

Speakers slated to attend and present at the conference include a “Who’s Who” of radical anti-Israel activists and academics, including Professor Ilan Pappe, who has repeatedly accused Israel of ethnic cleansing; Dr. Hatem Bazian, founder of antisemitic anti-Zionist campus movement Students for Justice in Palestine; Professor Richard Falk, who believes Israel “occupied, exploited, dispossessed and turned [Palestinians] into refugees” during the establishment of the state; Dr. Ghada Karmi, who calls for a one-state Palestinian solution; and Dr. Ronit Lentin, a major proponent of academic boycotts against Israel.  

“International Law and the State of Israel” is scheduled to take place between March 31 and April 2, 2017. UCC did not respond to The Algemeiner’s request for comment.

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