Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Saturday 11 April 2015

Why Professor Geoffrey Alderman Is Wrong Regarding The Southampton Conference: A professor writes ...

Below is a guest blog by Professor William Rubinstein, who has held chairs of history at Deakin University in Australia and at the University of Wales, and who like Professor Geoffrey Alderman has written books and articles on Anglo-Jewish history.

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"?

How many would have dignified the topic and its assumptions by criticising this "viewpoint," in an audience composed in all likelihood of Storm Troopers, the SS, and other assorted thugs, every one of whom was an antisemite and a Hitler worshipper?

Not many, and nor should they.

Meanwhile ....
Alderman's point that many of the conference supporters are academics is also without merit: many of the most sedulous supporters of the Nazis in Germany, including at least two Nobel Prize winners, were academics or those with a string of degrees, for instance Dr. Goebbels.

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.


  1. A commenter has pointed out on the Daphne Anson blog's Facebook page, that, contrary to Geoffrey Alderman's contention, "the SNP does not 'call into question the legitimacy of the UK': it simply wishes to dismantle it using legal methods". Excellent point.

  2. Alderman is inconsistent.

    Geoffrey Alderman April 2015: “There is no subject on God’s Earth that cannot be discussed in a university.”

    Geoffrey Alderman April 2010: “To argue – as an academic or in an academic setting – that the state of Israel should be destroyed seems, to me, to amount to an incitement to genocide. That is where free speech becomes hate speech.”

    So if – as was very likely – a speaker argued for ‘one state’, Geoffrey would immediately switch from supporting the event to denouncing it …

    And sure enough, look who one of the speakers was …

    Ms. Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, writer, Journalist, Jaffa, member of Jaffa One State Group, “The Israeli Liberal Elite and Their Fixation on the Jewish state”

  3. Professor Rubinstein says, som much more cogently, what I was arguing on the original engage online comments thread on this conference (here:, that this was not and never was intended to be a genuine academic conference. It was (may yet still be) a gathering of activists dedicated to their favourite subject: furthering the delegitimisation of Israel. As such, it could and should be allowed to carry on...just not under the label of an "academic" conference.

    Two or so weeks ago, the UK organisation "We believe in Israel" (an offshoot of BICOM) held an all day meeting. It was openly addressed to activists interested in their favourite subject: the support of Israel and fighting the delegitimisation of the same. There was no pretence, despite the presence of many academics, past and present, that this was in any way an academic event.

    The insert in the comment by Prof Rubinstein as to the possible relocation of the event is interesting: I fail to see why, providing that Southampton U refunds any moneys already received for it, they can be forced to provide space for this event.

    BTW, I was told off for questioning the assertion (no question mark, not even an implied one) that the Israeli Declaration of Independence was "unilateral". This despite the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations 1922 Resolution and the UN General Assembly vote in 1947. My further comment that the US Declaration was unilateral: should we now call that into question? was studiously ignored.

    I wonder why?

  4. William Rubinstein13 April 2015 at 11:32

    I thank the posters for their interesting comments. Professor Alderman's analogy between the subject of this conference and the Scots nationalists is, has been pointed out, clearly misleading, as the SNP doesn't question the Act of Union of 1707, only whether it should continue. The Declaration of Independence of the USA in 1776 had no viability in international law until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783, when the USA was officially recognized by Britain. This is in complete contrast with the Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948, which was based on the UN Partition Plan of 1947- it was completely valid; both the USA and the USSR recognized the legitimacy of the new State at once, and Israel was admitted to the UN in 1949. Any claim that the State of Israel is illegitimate is nonsense, and motivated by anti-semitism.


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