Irish academic conference advocating for Israel’s destruction

“International Law & the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” is little more than the recycling of aged terrorist conflict-propaganda in an academic setting.

Posted by UKMW Staff

It appears that a conference to be in Ireland, entitled “International Law & the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” will, in all likelihood, advocate for the destruction of the Jewish State, as inferred by its title and description, which focuses on the wrongs of the establishment of Israel, rather than any purported “occupation” in the aftermath of the Six Day War.


To quote the ‘Organisers’ statement’:

“It is with excitement that we are announcing the launch of the conference “International Law & the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” that will be held between the 31st of March and the 2nd of April 2017 at University College Cork, a constituent university of the National University of Ireland.

This conference will be the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and enduring peace in historic Palestine. It is unique because, while most attention today is directed at Israel’s actions in the 1967 Occupied Territories, the conference seeks to expand the debate surrounding the nature of the State of Israel and the legal and political reality within it.

The conference will raise questions that link the suffering in historic Palestine to the manner of Israel’s foundation and its nature. It aims to generate a debate on legitimacy, responsibility and exceptionalism under international law as provoked by the nature of the Israeli state. It will also examine how international law could be deployed, expanded, and even re-imagined, in order to achieve peace and reconciliation based on justice.”

The statement features a purported capacity to disagree and debate the conference’s topical issues. However, such notions of academic freedom sit rather uneasily with the extremism of the event’s professed aims, which include an advocacy to transform or ‘re-imagine’ international law toward the conference’s aim of nullifying the Jewish State’s existence, as well as the near-exclusion of programme speakers supportive of Israel. The reader also learns from the conference’s website that the new pow wow represents a further attempt to hold the event:

“Recent developments in some countries – particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom – have evidenced a chilling repression of academic freedom when it comes to critique of Israeli state policy. This renders it all the more crucial to provide forums for such debate. The history of this conference reflects these developments. Originally, it was planned to hold the conference at the University of Southampton, but growing pressure on academic freedom in the United Kingdom forced a decision to move the conference to Ireland. We look forward to productive and constructive academic engagement in Cork with the vital themes and questions raised by the conference…”

Last year’s Southamption University cancellation possibly occurred because there were strong objections and petitions by students and former students, since the event’s central aim was to question the very right of the sole principally Jewish nation to exist, as evident in the language of its call to papers, and the virtually unanimous stance of all its guests.

The alleged “chilling repression of academic freedom” evokes notions of the dreaded ‘Zionist Lobby’ supposedly silencing free speech at Southampton University, as the organisers would claim when objecting to its cancellation in 2015. However, Southampton University agreed to go ahead with a near-identical event earlier this year, with a stipulation that the organisers fund the security costs of hosting the conference with a private security firm. Nonetheless the organisers continued to blame “Jewish and pro-Israel groups in the UK”. The organisers legally challenged the University’s rulings in 2015 and 2016, but lost on both occasions.

A wide variety of events intrinsically hostile to Israel’s existence occur with startling regularity on British campuses, which are evidentially associated with an increase in campus incidents of an anti-Semitic nature, while pro-Israel speakers and supporters are regularly intimidated, harassed and/or assaulted. A similar situation has emerged on American campuses, largely at the behest of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

In view of the circumstance on many campuses, the organisers supposed worries about academic freedom and free speech are a nonsense to further attack and condemn those who oppose self-evidentially prejudicial events. To quote Professor William Rubinstein, a senior Australian academic, who criticised the approach of the planned event at Southampton:

“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 […]

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”.

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.”

Clearly, such an event is not an exercise in academic freedom, nor an effort to foster debate, since the conference attracted a whole array of anti-Israel speakers, almost all of whom advocate a boycott of Israel and its academia.

The equivalent conference, to be held at UCC, maintains such a one-sided approach, with the exceptions of two moderate supporters of Israel (Geoffrey Alderman and Alan Johnson), amongst the forty-seven guests already listed on the conference’s website. Some Irish supporters of Israel appear reluctant to call for the conference’s cancellation. However, holding the event in Ireland, where there would be minimal opposition, may lend a sense of academic legitimacy to such extremist narratives, and perhaps make it easier to hold similar events in other parts of Europe and Northern America.

The organisers

It does not augur well for the purported balance of the Conference when considering the individuals behind its organisation. All the listed organisers have expressed staunch anti-Israel sentiments. For example, Ms. Juman Asmail is a co-founder of the Southampton Students for Palestine group, while Professor Oren Ben-Dor is a radical anti-Israel activist whose views can arguably be described as self-hating. To quote an appraisal of Ben-Dor’s views by Professor Sarah Brown:

“In the abstract Ben-Dor refers to ‘pathologies pertaining to Jewish being and thinking.’ This essentialising formula in itself is problematic, but Ben-Dor transmutes it into something far more sinister over the course of the article: a nameless, shapeless, lurking horror.”

George Bisharat is a leading anti-Israel activist who supports a one-state solution. One-state advocacy constitutes the end of the sole principally Jewish nation through demographic means, bringing with it an end to Jewish self-determination after experiencing more than a millennia of persecution under a variety of Christian, Christian/secular, and Islamic regimes. Bisharat has been accused of using anti-Semitic invective. For example, he compared the Jewish claim that Israel constitutes the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, to that of the claims of a rapist, and parallels the Arab-Palestinian ‘resistance’ to that of the rape victim, despite the latter movements normatively utilising terrorist methods to kill Jewish civilians.

Professor James Bowen of the Computer Department of Cork’s National University of Ireland (UCC), is listed as an event organiser. Bowen is noted as one of Ireland’s most prolific anti-Israel campaigners in academia. Bowen holds the position of chairman of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), and has long supported the boycott of Israeli academia. Bowen endorses a one-state solution and advances outright historical untruths, such as the infamous map purporting to demonstrate the extent of Arab-Palestinian land dispossessions since Israel’s founding. Bowen was involved with the visit of Professor Yakov Rabkin who is a noted apologist for various forms of destructive extremism, advocates for a one-state solution, and has repeatedly white-washed the threat posed by anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly Rabkin is also guesting as a speaker at next year’s conference.

Dr. Kathy Glavanis-Grantham has worked for the ‘Palestinian Centre for Human Rights’ (PCHR), which sponsors law-fare crusades against Israel: the continued mounting of frivolous/non-viable legal actions in Western countries to demonise the Jewish State, and stoke tensions vis-à-vis foreign relations. PCHR often  minimises and morally justifies terrorist activities as ‘resistance’, and has reputed ties with the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’ (PFLP), a group designated a terrorist entity by the EU and the US. Glavanis-Grantham lent her support to a letter describing Israel’s actions as “ethnic cleansing and genocide linked to settler colonialism”. Despite assertions to the contrary, Jewish settlers are subjected to considerably greater levels of violence from Arab-Palestinian sources (often of a terrorist nature) than the other way around.

Dr. John Reynolds is an Irish academic and anti-Israel activist whose work focuses rather obsessively on the supposed wrongs of one particular nation, despite lecturing on the rather broad topic of international law. He was involved with anti-Israel NGO al-Haq, which also promotes doomed law-fare actions against Israel. Al-Haq is led by Shawan Jabarin, who has been closely associated with the PFLP.

Professor Suleiman Sharkh is an Arab-Palestinian academic teaching at the University of Southampton. He leads a local chapter of the UK Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC), which some critics deem to be a hate-group that overtly supports terrorism. Sharkh has repeatedly advocated for the creation of a single Arab-Palestinian state on “the historic land of Palestine”, which advocates, including sharkh, define as a “state that encompasses all of the historic land of Palestine (currently the political entities of the apartheid State of Israel and the post-1967 Israeli occupied Palestinian Territories)”. The failure to include the Arab-Islamic nation of Jordan, which represents 78% of historic Palestine, starkly illustrates the intent of such propagandists, to deny the regional Jewish populace a modicum of independence, as well as freedom from discrimination, persecution and genocide, to which over half of their ancestors, the Mizrahi Jews, were subjected, for over a millennia.

Mike FitzGibbon is an Irish lecturer and activist, who frequently lends his name to petitions for the one-state Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  Similarly, Dr. Jacqui O’Riordan, and Dr. Piaras MacEinri, have lended their names to many petitions calling for a boycott of Israel and its academic institutions. MacEinri has long blamed Israel for other international conflicts in an unwarranted fashion.

Hard-left anti-Zionist publisher ‘ZED Books’, which has sponsored the conference, has also published a plethora of books advocating for a one-state solution.

The upcoming conference’s purported aim is “peace and reconciliation based on justice”, through a mangling or “re-imagining” of international law. Selectively reading international law has become something of a defining pre-occupation within anti-Israel activism, as a means to demonise Israel, and stifle its capacity to defend its citizens. If the pre-occupations of the organisers and the guests are anything to go by, “International Law & the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism”,  will perform as per its label: single out the Jewish State for demonisation, mount dishonest apologia for Arab-Palestinian actors, while dismissing the vicious religious sectarianism at the very heart of the conflict – cue Rwandan-style one-state peace advocacy.

The event focuses on Israel, to the exclusion of other nation-states that developed in similar circumstances, where a partitioning took place out of necessity, where regions were riven by sectarian violence often of a religious nature, while wholly ignoring the fact that Arab people do rather better in Israel than Jews in the surrounding Islamic world! “International Law & the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” will in all probability be little more than the recycling of aged terrorist conflict-propaganda in an academic setting.

James Bowen’s UCC/IPSC anti-Israel hate-site

James Bowen is the webmaster of a rather chilling website called “Palestine: Information with Provenance (PIWP database)”, which includes a peculiar focus on the biographical data those who express support for Israel. The site is a part of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC), purporting to present the views of both sides of the argument, but, unfortunately this stance is little more than a facade. PIWP Database describes its function as illustrating “Who says what, why they say it and what others say about them” – “We give you documents from all points on the ideological spectrum, both Zionist and anti-Zionist. We give you background on everybody whose opinion you find here. We also let you see what these people/organizations say about each other.” However, David Landy, another long-standing senior member of the IPSC, describes the site rather differently, as featuring “the grim litany of articles outlining a history of oppression that you can read in the PIWP database on Palestinian citizens of Israel”.

PIWP Database peddles conflict propaganda that can cross into outright anti-Semitism. The site features authors as problematic as Holocaust-denier Gilad Atzmon. PIWP also features entire topical sections on “Zionism and its symbiosis with anti-semitism”, as well as “Nazi-Zionist collaboration” which features the kind of ahistorical thrash widely debunked by experts during this year’s Ken Livingstone controversy, including articles by the likes of Lenni Brenner, a Trotskyist author who is widely cited by neo-NAZI sources, such as the ‘Institute for Historical Review’. Like that of its anti-Israel ilk, many of the articles featured on the PIWP Database are often mirrored on various neo-NAZI/anti-Semitic websites, as casual internet searches will attest.

The PIWP Database has also generated ire from unexpected sources – staunch anti-Zionist activists! PIWP editor Paul de Rooij lambasted well-known anti-Israel activist Tony Greenstein for taking issue with Gilad Atzmon’s outright Holocaust denial. To quote de Rooij:

“Another interesting observation is that Greenstein got about 30 mostly Jewish people to sign a letter/petition for MAP not to accept the proceeds from Gilad’s concert. Here is a group of Jews petitioning Palestinians not to accept donations for Gaza from Gilad! Now, isn’t that nice!?…

On this count, it behooves Palestinians and solidarity activists to distance themselves from this snake in the grass.”

Paul De Rooij effectively claims that even the most ardent of Jewish anti-Zionists, a description for which Greenstein most assurredly qualifies given his support for the destruction of the Jewish State and his apologism for Arab-Palestinian terrorism, are dreadfully disloyal if they petition those they so passionately support, to decline assistance from a party that advocates Holocaust denial! For de Rooij, it would seem that “Jews” have no such rights, whatever their number be. De Rooij has written for a significant number of hard-left publications and NGOs that have a problematic attitude toward Jewish issues: The ‘Washington Report on Middle East Affairs’ (WRMEA) which has earned notoriety for both its remarkable obsession with Israel, and its ugly treatment of the Holocaust, Hanan Ashrawi’s ‘Miftah’ which has defended published content promoting blood libel, Counterpunch and Z Magazine. De Rooij has asserted that Israel has an overt policy toward the Arab-Palestinians that is “genocidal”, and that the BBC is riven with pro-Israel bias  despite substantive evidence to the contrary. De Rooij claims that fears of being accused of anti-Semitism’ has led to “an uncritical acceptance of interminable U.S. wars” abroad, and writes approvingly of a Scott Handleman article, that “offers an alternative appraisal of anti-Semitism by suggesting that the responsibility of its victim should also be taken into account. Again, this is an important discussion to place the various sanctimonious books on the topic into perspective.”

Tony Greenstein wrote to Bowen about de Rooij’s snub. However, Professor Bowen seemed quite unconcerned with the issue of anti-Semitism in the anti-Israel movement. According to Greenstein, Bowen stated: “I decided that I did not want to get into this kind of controversy”, which surely stands as one of the blithest expressions of indifference by a leading figure of a purportedly ‘humanitarian’ movement toward manifest examples of hatred within its ranks! Echoes of dismissive attitudes toward the Holocaust in Irish anti-Israelism are not rare, e.g. the hate- speech featured on the ‘Irish4Palestine’ site (linked with the ‘Irish Ship to Gaza’ group) when dealing with an issue of such sensitivity: “the World Order of Nazi Zionists…”, “the Flea Ridden Dogs that they are…”, etc.

It may therefore come as a surprise that the PIWP database features under the ‘’ address since its inception over a decade ago. Despite a disclaimer that: “This page is not part of the official UCC website.”/, it remains that University College Cork is hosting hate-material under the prestige of the ‘’ domain, which would inevitably confer a certain reputational legitimacy, which PIWP exploits in the description of its function as an evenhanded source of provenance. UCC’s decision to hold such a problematic conference may be understood as part of a broader opposition, within elements of its administration, toward the Jewish State.


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