British university cancels conference on Israel’s right to exist, cites protest fears


(JTA) — The University of Southampton in Britain said it was canceling a conference on Israel’s right to exist over concerns of protests.

The conference, which was described on the university’s website as “a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine,” was denounced as one-sided by critics such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Conservative lawmakers Eric Pickles and Caroline Nokes, the Guardian reported.

Among the organizers of the event, which was scheduled to take place April 17-19, was Oren Ben-Dor, a Southampton professor of philosophy and law who has supported academic boycotts of Israeli universities and called Israel an “apartheid state.”

Ben-Dor, a former Israeli, wrote in a blog post that the university told him it had canceled the conference due to health and safety reasons, meaning that the school would not be able to handle the anticipated protests outside the event.

“It is very clear that the health and safety issue was not serious, it’s a way of creating bogus reasoning. The real reason was political pressure,” Ben-Dor wrote.

Southampton’s latest statement, which came Tuesday before the cancellation, said, “Any decision will be judged purely on considerations around the health and safety of our staff, students and for the general public.”

Richard Falk, a professor emeritus of law at Princeton University who has compared Israel’s policies toward Palestinians to those of the Nazis, was slated to attend the conference.

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