Now, an official statement emanating from the Jewish Leadership Council declares that an acceptable and praiseworthy compromise has been reached that sets the template for future such events:
'The Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Board of Deputies, Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and The University of Exeter can today announce a new approach to the debating of issues on campus pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whilst upholding the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech.
In the lead-up to the academic conference on ‘Settler Colonialism in Palestine & Workshop on the Naqab Bedouin’ the University and the JLC have worked together to adopt a plan which, it is hoped, will form the basis of an approach for future similar conferences.
In a constructive engagement, the JLC raised the issue that the call for papers and conference timing could give the appearance of a lack of opportunity to submit opposing views on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The University understands this concern, and has worked with its academics to address it, while keeping at its heart the principles of academic freedom and freedom of enquiry.
Therefore, on this occasion:
The JLC has been invited to nominate two academics to attend and participate in the conference in its current form which is scheduled for the beginning of October.
An academic event will be held later in the year and co-hosted by the University of Exeter and the JLC, which will provide an opportunity for further academic debate, ensuring that many topics are covered from a range of speakers on both sides of the debate. The JLC and the University will jointly agree the title, format and content.
The principles of academic freedom and open enquiry are fundamental. Those principles do not prevent academic conferences looking to offer as wide a range of academic evidence and argument as possible within the range of study and to actively seek out views which might counter perception of underlying bias.
Working with Universities UK, the University of Exeter and the JLC have benefitted from a constructive dialogue and this experience may benefit other universities to engage at the outset of any future conferences on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.'JLC's statement quotes many appreciative sentiments on the part of relevant campus organisations, including Jewish ones. Also quoted is David Brown, CEO, Union of Jewish Students (UJS), who asserts:
"UJS are encouraged by the steps taken by the University of Exeter to secure the welfare of all their students whilst ensuring academic freedom. Academic freedom also requires that any students do not feel threatened or have their learning impinged due to their religious, ethnic or national identity. We are proud of the Exeter J-Soc and Exeter Friends of Israel Society for the determined and pragmatic way they have worked with their Guild and University leadership. We hope that Vice Chancellors and Students’ Unions across the UK will emulate this sensitive response to the needs and concerns of their students."But some prominent pro-Israel activists are not placated. One, for instance, comments on the above site, below the line:
'This is not an academic conference. It is an Israel hatefest. The phrase “Israel’s exceptionality” is deeply antisemitic. It means “Because of Holocaust guilt, Israel is exceptional – it is allowed to break laws with impunity”.
This event – financed with public money – should not be happening at a University. That is what the JLC should have aimed to achieve. Being ‘allowed’ to nominate two academics simply gives the hatefest a seal of approval.
“This approach should form a good model for future discussions on conferences which may cause controversy”
No it should not. It is unacceptable for Israel hatefest events to take place at Universities. Giving the event a seal of approval in this way makes it no better – worse in truth.'Another argues:
"You cannot have a debate when one side sets the title for the conference and the terms of the debate. The October conference inverts the true nature of the struggle of the indigenous Jewish people against Arab and Muslim ethnic cleansing, colonialism and imperialism. The debate’s premise is founded on a lie. You cannot have dialogue when one side wants you dead and the argument is simply over the manner of the death – emasculation of Israel’s right to self-defence, diplomatic isolation and condemnation in the court of world opinion or demographic strangulation. The October conference is simply one more weapon in this Palestinian/Islamist war, under cover of academic respectablility. None of this must be allowed to go ahead and the Jewish establishment must not be party to it."Another, Professor Denis MacEoin, observes, inter alia (read his entire comment here):
"The JLC compromise does not solve, but rather exacerbates the problem. Given the overall tenor of the conference and its clear bias, I would not feel confident in exposing myself to its atmosphere and a likely tirade against whatever views I might express, even though I am qualified to do so... A properly managed academic conference should not display such an exorbitant degree of pre-judgmental bias or a clearly one-sided panel of papers and individuals....The JLC approach is ultimately self-defeating. It is a mistake to argue that a non-academic body representing a single viewpoint can, in effect, appoint someone to take part in an academic conference. As a precedent, this will allow bodies like the Muslim Council of Britain and other Islamic bodies to appoint pious Muslims with degrees of vague relevance or none to take part in this or later conferences.... It is a dangerous direction to take and the JLC, regardless of its motives, should be made aware of the long-term threat it poses. It will undermine balanced academic work on this topic. Moreover, simply by taking part we are endorsing the conference, which should be halted on academic grounds for its one-sided approach. Read the description of the conference, the title, and the proposed papers and ask why on earth should we go along with an anti-Zionist and, by more than implication, anti-Semitic event by dressing it up as ‘open to all views’, something it clearly is not."long robust piece that concludes thus:
"The Jewish students have been sold out, Israel has been sold out, Jewish Academics have been sold out, Israeli activists have been sold out and many in the community have been sold out, probably so one Jewish group can score a few publicity points. Who knows and who cares, it doesn’t make this action any less wrong. I am no extremist, and this agreement shows clearly these groups do not have enough of a fundamental grasp of the situation to be able to make decisions, and they most certainly do not have the authority to speak in my name. They have just made everything a whole lot worse. I know that historians will one day look back in astonishment at the treatment Israel is currently being given within academic institutions in the West, just as historically we always retroactively analyse anti-Semitism in any time period; and now in addition, historians will once again analyse how the Jewish leadership simply put its head in the sand as the world around them began to burn. Anti-Zionism / anti-Semitism, there is no negotiation and no white flag. It was, is, and always will be unacceptable, however it wishes to dress itself up."