The University of Southampton’s council is believed to be “reviewing its position” on plans to hold a controversial academic conference on Israel’s legitimacy.
The claim was made by Vivian Wineman, head of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a group representing the interests of British Jews, after a meeting with Vice-Chancellor Don Nutbeam calling to cancel the conference.
Mr Wineman said:
We put forward very strong concerns. The conference is formulated in extremist terms, has attracted toxic speakers and is likely to result in an increase in antisemitism and tension on campus.
The University is reviewing its position and is considering all the options open to it.
The conference, scheduled for 17th-19th April, titled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”, has received significant criticism since it was announced earlier this month.
The Zionist Federation labelled it a ‘kangaroo court’, and a petition with over 4,500 signatures calling for the event’s cancellation said the conference “will legitimize the harmful message that Israel’s very existence is up for debate.”
Some university students have demanded that the event be cancelled on the grounds that “Southampton must not be allowed to become a platform for hatred”, and that the University’s “attempt to weigh in on this is a pointless and offensive endeavour”.
Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes said the University would be “potentially bring itself into disrepute by hosting such an apparently one-sided event”.
A spokesperson for the University told the Jewish Chronicle:
“[The University] very much values its relationships with students, staff, visitors and invited speakers from Israel and the Jewish community.
We will do all we can within our statutes and ordinances to ensure that any distress or upset is addressed.”
Should the conference go ahead or be cancelled? Let us know what you think in the comments below.