The conference ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’, organised by a member of the Southampton Law School, will take place from 17-19 April 2015. Members of the public, including friends and supporters of the Parkes Institute, have voiced their concern about the fact that a conference that invites the questioning of the legitimacy of the State of Israel should be hosted by one of the UK’s leading universities.
The University of Southampton is legally obliged under Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the University as well as for visiting speakers. We fully support freedom of speech within the law, but we want to make very clear that the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations has no involvement with the conference.
As the Parkes Institute which honours and treasures its academic contacts with Israeli as well as Palestinian scholars, universities, archives, and other institutions, we are deeply concerned by the conference plan as it has been presented. This event could potentially damage the spirit of dialogue and cooperation that James Parkes brought to Southampton and to which we are all committed. A conference that singles out Israel and invites the questioning of its very existence cannot be supported by a group of academics dedicated to the study of Jewish history and culture.
Joachim Schlör, Director of the Parkes Institute