This guest blog criticises Professor Alderman's contention in the Jewish Chronicle here that the cancellation of the scheduled conference at Southampton University entitled "International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism" is unjustified and regrettable.
Writes Professor Rubinstein:
Many of Professor Geoffrey Alderman's columns in the Jewish Chronicle are perceptive and cogent.
But many are not, and his most recent column – "An own goal in Southampton" – is not. In fact, it is totally wrong and mischievous, and I would be surprised if many of his normal supporters would agree with him.
The proposed Conference at Southampton University, which was to be held on 17-19 April, is not an academic conference in the normal sense.
By definition, academic discussions entail a variety of opinions, and, by definition, the organisers of academic conferences, while they may have a private opinion about the subject of the conference, even one passionately held, are neutral and scrupulously fair-minded about the presentation of contrary opinions
From its nature, the Southampton conference is the very opposite of a normal academic conference which is value-neutral on the subject under discussion.
This conference is, on the contrary, an academic lynch mob which makes no secret of its predetermined stance.
Its Organisers' Statement available online makes this clear: the conference exists to examine the "ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians and associated injustices" and one of its aims is "to educate a whole new generation [sic] of young Palestinian legal and political scholars about new possible arguments and concepts in order to use International Law better [sic] in a way that expands legal argument beyond the '1967 occupation' discourse" [sic; – turgid language, poorly expressed and almost incomprehensible, is often part of the rhetoric of the far left, even – indeed, especially – at universities].
The organisers have provided an online list of the speakers and their topics at the conference, which makes for interesting reading and leaves one in no doubt how utterly unfair it is.
Apart from Alderman's paper, every one of the other fifteen or so papers at the gathering are venomously hostile to Israel's existence as a state, invariably from the international Loony Left.
"On Comparative Settler Colonialism and American Expansionism,""Zionist Colonisation Strategies in Palestine," and "Israel and the Crimes of Apartheid: A Systematic Perspective" are typical examples of the fare to be served up.
It does not appear to have entered Geoffrey Alderman's head that he is obviously and manifestly being used as the token Zionist at an anti-Zionist hate-fest in order to give it some fig leaf of respectability as a bona-fide academic conference, of which it is the very opposite.
One wonders, too, if he, or any other Jewish spokesman would have taken part in a conference organised in Nazi Germany on the topic: "The Jewish Race: A Mortal Danger to Aryan Germany"?
Not many, and nor should they.
I would personally have no objection to a bona-fide academic conference whose title was "Mandate Palestine in 1948: Contested Histories" or the like, in which a clash of opinions
– a genuine clash – is to be expected and encouraged.
The Southampton conference is the very opposite of this.
And if the organisers of this conference want to relocate to a non-academic venue and hold a tendentious gathering unconnected with a university, that is their business.
A Hamas training camp in southern Lebanon suggests itself as an appropriate venue.