British Government Tries to Dershowitz Southampton University

Members of the British government are trying to dershowitz* Southampton University:

Eric Pickles has warned Southampton University against “allowing a one-sided diatribe” as the become [sic] the most senior politician yet to intervene in the growing row over a major conference into the legitimacy of Israel.

The Communities Secretary’s comments come as a senior Jewish leader called for the event, hosted by the institution’s law school, to be reconstructed or cancelled.

“Given the taxpayer-funded University has a legal duty to uphold freedom of speech, I would hope that they are taking steps to give a platform to all sides of the debate, rather than allowing a one-sided diatribe.”

Board of Deputies vice-president Jonathan Arkush will head a delegation to meet the university’s vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam next week.

“The Board’s central insistence will be that if this conference cannot be re-structured to revise its tendentious subject title and focus on delegitimising The State of Israel, and to feature a balanced line up of academic contributors, it cannot be treated as a serious and genuine academic study and should be cancelled,” he said.

“Thus far, all it is achieving is the inflicting of serious damage to the reputation of the University of Southampton as a British university of repute.”

Pro-Israel speakers including Professor Alan Johnson have been added to the conference’s schedule but research by the Fair Play Campaign Group classified 80 percent of the 56 speakers as “anti-Israel activists”.



  1. demand that a speaker(s) with one view of the State of Israel share the platform with a speaker(s) of the opposing view, unless the first speaker supports the State of Israel.
  2. demand that a speaker(s) with one view of the State of Israel share the platform with a speaker(s) of the opposing view, unless the first speaker is Alan Dershowitz.


  1. Mike Cushman (@MikeInBrixton) March 13, 2015 at 4:12 pm | #

    I’m all for balanced debate providing it’s universal.

    So, every time an economics department holds a seminar with only neo-liberal viewpoints presented there must be Keynsians and socialists to balance them.

    Every time an executive from an outsourcing firm talks there must be a trade unionist

    and so on

    Once we’ve got all this in the place Pickles can start to talk to Southampton University about what looks to be a high quality and thought-provoking event

    • freespeechlover March 13, 2015 at 5:00 pm | #

      Yes, the call for balance is always already an uneven one, and most of the time, directed at events perceived to be “anti-Israel.” I have yet to hear of a politician calling for an event to be balanced with Palestinian perspectives or representatives. Funny how that works.

  2. Robin Messing March 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm | #

    So, if they should hold a symposium discussing how bad slavery was, do they need to invite a pro-slavery speaker?

  3. Robin Messing March 14, 2015 at 3:19 pm | #

    And just so no one misconstrues my meaning, I don’t mean to imply that Israel is as bad as slavery. It’s just that always requiring both sides of every issue to be presented in order to have free speech is bizarre. Actually though, maybe we should make an exception with Israel. Every pro-BDS panel should feature a pro-Israeli speaker, and that should happen as soon as Hillel is required to have a pro-Palestinian speaker at all of their events.

  4. Kevin Jon Heller March 16, 2015 at 1:57 pm | #

    The great irony is that Arkush is a leading participant in next week’s “We Believe in Israel” conference, which makes the Southampton conference (in which I was supposed to participate but cannot) seem like the picture of balance. When I called the hypocrisy to Arkush’s attention, he tried to claim the “We Believe in Israel” conference was balanced, and then — after being challenged to name a single prominent critic of Israel appearing at the conference — stopped communicating. At that point, the ridiculous NGO Monitor tried to claim that a “community event” is somehow different than an academic conference in the need to be balanced.

    All in all, pretty pathetic.

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