It's reported in The Australian newspaper that the conference's co-sponsor the Australian National University (ANU), is facing a backlash, one that in my view (I'm an alumna of the that particular seat of learning, by the way) is richly deserved.
The Australian's Christian Kerr reports:
"[ANU] officials have gone to ground in the face of Jewish community outrage for hosting Middle East hardliners at a Human Rights in Palestine conference this week [which] has led to questions being asked about the university's academic credibility.
Keynote speakers at the conference, which begins today, include Richard Falk, the UN's special rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, who was publicly rebuked by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in 2011 for "preposterous" remarks questioning whether the September 11 terror attacks were orchestrated by the US government.
Another is Hanan Ashrawi, who was among a few Palestine Liberation Organisation members who in 1996 voted not to remove clauses in the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction.
A third, Jeff Halper, claimed in 2011 that Israel has developed a "spectral dust" it could spray over wide areas of land, every grain of which was a sensor programmed with a person's DNA to track, locate and kill that individual...."The report quotes Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, thus:
"A conference that features fringe conspiracy theorists and ideologues and omits recognised scholars in the field has no academic credibility.
It is appalling that one of our top universities, the ANU, seems no longer to understand the difference between genuine scholarship and political advocacy."And it also quotes Dean Sherr, director of political affairs for the Australian Union of Jewish Students:
"It is highly concerning to see someone with such a history of anti-Semitic slurs invited on to Australian university campuses.
We repeatedly come up against extreme anti-Israel groups on campus that blur the line between attacking Israel and attacking Jews. Our fear is Falk will only inflame this. It would belittle the importance of student welfare to ignore his history of offensive conduct and links to anti-Semitism to welcome him with open arms."'Read more here
As one Jewish Aussie academic (no rightwinger, by the way) has observed in response to the report:
"It is concerning that an Australian university is hosting a conference on Palestine which may promote the racial or ethnic stereotying of all Israeli Jews as an alleged oppressor people.
Any serious academic analysis would have to acknowledge that the Palestinians are not solely defenceless and innocent victims, and that there are moderates and extremists on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide.
Conflict resolution requires both sides to make fundamental concessions. Attempts to label all Israelis as a guilty people only serve to remind many people of the Fascistic ideologies that dominated Germany and Italy in the 1930s."More joy is on the way: Richard Falk is heading to Melbourne to work his black magic there in a talk co-sponsored by the ANU and the Swinburne University of Technology.
Update: And see this too for his activities in Melbourne.