Verdict on judicial review of Southampton conference cancellation: The anti-Semites lose.

Cross posted from the blog of David Collier
As I was there today at the High Court, I thought I’d write just a few points about today’s High Court Judicial Review hearing on the University of Southampton conference.

  • University of Southampton were given a clean bill of health. There was no criticism whatsoever about their behaviour. They strictly followed procedure and engaged in deep discussion with all relevant stakeholders
  • There were as suspected long internal security discussions behind the scenes about the conference that raised doubts about it happening prior to our knowledge of it. These discussions predated the BOD meeting. Even when we were still being given the line it was going ahead, they were no longer sure themselves.
  • University of Southampton tried to both find an alternative venue and offered the possibility of holding the conference at the University at a later date after sufficient security arrangements could be made. The organisers consistently refused any alternative arrangements.
  • The judge made it clear this was not really a freedom of speech or expression argument. Nobody was saying the papers could not be published nor the conference held. Nobody gagged anyone – it was simply a case of not ‘here, today and in this way’.
  • There were no legal grounds for the conference organisers case to hold up.
  • The Judge made it clear there was no evidence whatsoever to suggest anything other than security concerns caused the ‘postponement’. The accusation of ‘Zionist lobby’ pressure was thrown aside.
  • The Judge, defendant and conference organisers, all clearly stated the Jewish demonstration was to be peaceful. The possible EDL appearance was discarded as irrelevant in number. So the inference was that the cancellation was due to the possibility of violent confrontation arising from counter demonstrations or terrorists targeting the Jewish gathering.
  • This means any comments to suggest the Zionist lobby were responsible for this cancellation are the usual anti-Semitic attacks that suggest Jewish conspiracy at every turn. Even the idea that we would somehow disrupt it was discredited. This was cancelled because no one could guarantee the safety of the Jewish protestors.
  • The conference organisers own barrister suggested that terrorists would not strike at the conference because it would be an ‘own goal’ ( at least it shows they are aware whose side they are on).
  • The conference organisers attempted to discredit Sussex Friends of Israel. Firstly by stating they are not a Jewish group (and therefore imply they could not be a target for a terror attack) and secondly by continually connecting them with the EDL as two groups ‘working together’. SFoI were the only referenced element of the Jewish protests. It was a dirty tactic they repeated several times
  • The conference organisers astonishingly commented that the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen were in no way related to Israel or Palestine. Whilst anti-Semitism predates Israel and exists away from it, I do not know of any sane person that does not believe there is a correlation between events in Israel and the amount of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe.
  • The conference organisers  argument was known to be weak. They had been warned there was little chance of success. They were therefore ordered to pay partial defence costs.
  • They conference organisers were battered; there was no a single point they attempted to put across that was accepted.
  • In the end it was so one-sided I almost began to feel sorry for them (okay, not quite).

Unless they have secretly already arranged a second venue, this conference will not now go ahead. This war however will move to another time, perhaps even in the same place. Having said that, I know how hard many people worked on this issue, and how much effort has been spent. Many new partnerships have been forged and good friends made. So now is the time to enjoy our moment, and to raise a glass – well done to all of us & L’chaim

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