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ONE OF only two speakers due to argue Israel’s case at a conference questioning the existence of the Jewish state has withdrawn from the event.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