The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BY LEE HARPIN

ONE OF only two speak­ers due to ar­gue Is­rael’s case at a con­fer­ence ques­tion­ing the ex­is­tence of the Jewish state has with­drawn from the event.

Pro­fes­sor Alan John­son, BICOM’s se­nior re­search Fel­low, con­firmed he has pulled out of the con­fer­ence in Cork, Ire­land in protest at the or­gan­is­ers’ de­ci­sion to bill Richard Falk as one of the key­note speak­ers.

In a state­ment, Prof John­son said: “I have in­formed the or­gan­is­ers of the Cork Con­fer­ence that I will no longer be par­tic­i­pat­ing. The or­gan­is­ers have is­sued an in­vi­ta­tion to Richard Falk to give a key­note speech.

“I had agreed to par­tic­i­pate in an aca­demic con­fer­ence to present a paper in de­fence of Is­rael’s right to ex­ist. But, by invit­ing a speaker who es­pouses an­ti­semitic con­spir­acy the­o­ries, the con­fer­ence is now ob­jec­tively an at­tempt to nor­malise an­ti­semitism and I can­not at­tend such an event.”

The Cork con­fer­ence, which is ti­tled “In­ter­na­tional Law and the State of Is­rael: Le­git­i­macy, Ex­cep­tion­al­ism and Re­spon­si­bil­ity” and be­gins on March 31, will fea­ture some of the most out­spo­ken crit­ics of Is­rael. Speak­ers in­clude anti-Zion­ist his­to­rian Pro- fes­sor llan Pappe and the Univer­sity of Southamp­ton’s Pro­fes­sor Oren Ben-Dor, who has blamed the Jewish mind-set for pro­vok­ing an­ti­semitism.

Prof John­son ini­tially be­lieved he had a duty to at­tend the event in or­der to “de­fend Is­rael’s right to ex­ist”. But he had de­cided to with­draw be­cause, he said, Mr Falk’s ap­pear­ance “changes the char­ac­ter of the event”. He cited Mr Falk’s en­dorse­ment of a book by Gi­lad Atz­mon, as an in­flu­enc­ing fac­tor. The book was “openly an­ti­semitic — yet with a trib­ute on the back page from Falk”, he said.

The only pro-Is­rael speaker now due to at­tend is for­mer JC colum­nist Ge­of­frey Al­der­man, who said he would not fol­low Prof John­son in with­draw­ing. “Aca­demic free­dom has at its heart the right of aca­demics to put for­ward, with­out fear or favour, ideas and ar­gu­ments that oth­ers may view as un­pop­u­lar,” he said.

The con­fer­ence, which had orig­i­nally been due to take place at Southamp­ton Univer­sity in 2015, but was can­celled on health and safety grounds, will be held at Cork City Hall over two days, with a third day on the cam­pus of Univer­sity Col­lege Cork. While the univer­sity says it is not of­fi­cially spon­sor­ing the event, the UCC logo has been used on pro­mo­tional


Alan John­son

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