Readers may remember a controversy reported in January. It was proposed that an international “academic” conference about the legitimacy of Israel would take place in University College Cork in the Republic of Ireland. There have been several developments in this sorry enterprise since then.
What the conference, which goes under the revealing title, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”, was about may be summed up in a few sentences. It has from the beginning been designed to denounce Israel as an illegal state, all under the cover of supposed neutral academic inquiry. The organizers had previously tried to hold the event at Britain’s Southampton University and, reportedly, other European universities, each time without success.
The new plan was to hold the conference with virtually all the same speakers and papers at Cork’s University College from March 31 to April 2 this year. When that plan became known, several people in Ireland and elsewhere, including this author, contacted the college in an attempt to persuade its administration to cancel the event. We did so on two principal grounds. One, that it proposes to be an anti-Semitic event according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition. That definition, like two earlier international versions, includes several clauses in which overt demonization of Israel and attempts to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination are treated as equally anti-Semitic as previous figures of speech in classical anti-Semitism. Here are the relevant clauses from that Definition:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
- Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
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