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Southampton University Conference "International Law & the State of Israel" - Activism Dressed up in Academic Garb


Editorial Note

The planned three day conference between the 17th and 19th of April 2015 at Southampton University is a case in point of the long standing practice of pro-Palestinian scholars-activists to use academic legitimacy to further their cause.     

The brain child of Oren Ben-Dor, a former Israeli, it promises to use critical international law, the recently fashionable tool of choice in the activist circles, to revisit the legal foundation of the State of Israel. Unsurprisingly, the selection of panelists reflects the position that the international community, as embodied in the United Nations, was rooted in “international injustice.”

Ben-Dor’s claim to provide a spectrum of views is belied by the fact that most of the participants are BDS supporters, as one critic demonstrated.

The Southampton conference presents a challenge to those who fight the delegitimization of Israel.   Though not officially under the auspices of Southampton University, for all intent and purpose the event looks academic and professional.  Few outsiders would know that critical international law is a minority field and, more to the point, that it is used virtually exclusively to denounce Israel.  

The only remedy would be to organize a “counter-conference” on the subject as befitting a proper academic discourse.  However, pro-Israeli activists are hugely outnumbered on campus and are unable to sustain the efforts needed.  

What is more, the few steps to address the situation have focused disproportionately on denouncing the anti-Semitic aspects of the BDS movement.  This maybe emotionally satisfying, but inadequate to challenge the volume of critical legal research.  


International Israel ‘delegitimising’ conference organised by UK university

February 13, 2015

Southampton University Law School is to host a major international conference on the “legality, validity and legitimacy” of Israel “given the urgent need to respond to persistent Palestinian suffering.”

For three days in April, academics will flock to discuss the “problems associated with the creation and nature of the Jewish state itself and the status of Jerusalem.”

The conference will explore “the relatedness of the suffering and injustice in Palestine to the foundation and protection of a state of such nature,” asking what role international law should play in the situation.

Event literature says the subject is a “marginalised debate” needing a “legal analysis of the manner by which the State of Israel came into existence as well as what kind of state it is”.

Jewish community leaders expressed “grave concern” about the perceived partiality of the conference, which organisers said was “a ground-breaking historical event on the road towards justice and peace in historic Palestine.”

Tory peer Lord Leigh said: “It is very disappointing that a distinguished university like Southampton has organised this conference. They have never held a conference questioning the right of existence of any other country.”

Organised by Prof. Oren Ben-Dor, a former Israeli who has previously called Israel an “arrogant self-righteous Zionist entity,” the event promises “public debate without partisanship.”

However this was in doubt after the discussion of Israel was framed in the context of “other unjust regimes” and “other states established as a consequence of extreme violence towards indigenous populations”.

Despite opposition from Jewish community leaders – several of whom have lodged protests with the university’s vice-chancellor – organisers have pressed ahead with the convention on 17-19 April, saying they hope it will “serve as a platform for scholarly debates rather than positing an activist aim”.

Jewish Leadership Council chief executive Simon Johnson, who was among the dissenting voices, said: “We are gravely concerned about this unbalanced, delegitimising conference, which will have a detrimental impact on cohesiveness. We have asked the vice-chancellor to reconsider.”

He added: “It’s a fine line between academic freedom, which we all cherish, and delegitimisation and discrimination. This conference seems to hover around that line.”


From: Plstnlaw <plstnlaw@soton.ac.uk>
Date: 7 October 2014 11:19:46 BST
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Conference announcement: International Law and the State of Israel

Dear fellow academics,

Please allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Oren Ben-Dor and I am Professor of Law and Philosophy at the University of Southampton.  I am sending you a link to a forthcoming conference on International Law and the State of Israel to be held between the 17th and 19th of April 2015 here at Southampton University. I am organising it with Professor George Bisharat of University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

This conference could be of considerable interest to your colleagues whose area of research is mainly, but not exclusively, in Public International Law; Human Rights and Civil Liberties; Legal and Political Philosophy, Political Science; Social Theory; Transitional Justice, Constitutional Law; Ethnicity, Gender and Law; Law and Religion, Spatial Justice and Belonging and last but not least all aspects of these which relate to Palestine.

The conference explores Palestine whose background predicament challenges the existing conceptual framework of International Law, the ideologies that move it, and in turn the potential for its responsibility to avert enduring and systematic violence and suffering.  This is a key event that merges conceptual and historical reflections as well as practical wisdom and action, as called for by an ongoing current political conflict.

As you can see from the information attached that focus of the conference is the state of Israel itself: the link between its actions and its very nature will be explored. Notwithstanding the controversial question at its heart  and the multi-layered challenges it poses to the very notion of International Law and its 'constitution' the conference is entirely non-partisan and aims to accommodate a range of views and disagreements.

We would be very grateful if you could circulate this email to all your colleagues and to any other person who might be interested to either merely attend, or participate, in the conference. The website for the conference ishttp://www.southampton.ac.uk/israelpalestinelaw .  In it you will see the call for papers which explains the aims and focus of the conference very well. As you can see people can register and donate online.

We very much look forward to hearing from you and your colleagues and to welcome you to Southampton 2015.

Professor Oren Ben-Dor and Professor George Bisharat.



An open letter to the University of Southampton

I write in connection to the upcoming conference under the auspices of the Southampton Law School titled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” to be held over the weekend of 17-19th April.

university_southampton_white_on_blue_0I have no doubt given the subject matter you have received ample communication on the subject. Indeed, I am sure you were warned in advance by those that organised this event that an ‘outcry’ was to be expected, and a ‘highly organised rabble’ would noisily protest. I also believe, that vocal opposition, or the hecklers veto, is something that it is vitally important that a university stands up to; after all, most major social advances happen amidst grumblings and protest. I can assure you that this letter is not one of simple political protest.

I have spent most of my last 10 years in a University, prior to this I spent considerable time in Israel, working both with Israelis and Palestinians.  Academic study is vital and it is vital this study should know freedom. It is not the place of academics to refuse to enter an area of knowledge for fear of disrupting the currently accepted; rather it is their duty to break down walls. Section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, virtually binds you to promote, encourage and enable such freedoms. So my opposition to this conference is neither political nor one on a principle of silencing opinion, rather it is one of academic quality and misrepresentation.

The conference website page claims the conference is “the first of its kind”, promising that “Key speakers and various panels will diagnose the legal position with regard to the nature of Israel”. It promises to provide “leading thinkers: scholars from law, politics, philosophy, theology, anthropology, cultural studies history and other connected disciplines” It is given the academic cover of your University and is clearly designed to appear academic in nature. Indeed its stated primary purpose is to “enable a much needed platform for scholarly debate and disagreement”. The primary page gives it further academic standing, by listing the “Academic organisation” behind it.

The stated ‘aims and objectives’ include generating ‘a multidisciplinary platform for scholarly debate’, ‘to help shift public debate’ and “to allow and to actively encourage highly different responses to all these questions “. After reading the programme, my initial thought was the panel seemed one sided for ‘scholarly debate’, so I turned to Professor Oren Ben-Dor for clarification. I noted that there seems to be a pre-determined and rather predictable outcome to this discussion, so I asked bluntly whether any speakers believe the creation of Israel to have been legitimate and whether any oppose the boycott. He responded with a simple promise, that I would “get a range of opinions”.

At the end of the letter is a list, a list of all the people participating in this conference, the ones providing this ‘range of opinions’. They have been listed here so others can view what in the professor’s eyes constitutes a “range of opinions”.  The list is long, but hardly varied. I have provided links where possible, to highlight how many of them are of a similar outlook. In general, almost all of them thoroughly agree with each other. Israel was a mistake, Israel is racist, Israel practices Apartheid, Israel engages in ethnic cleansing, Israel should be boycotted, Israel is to blame for the general instability in the Middle East and so on. Given the number of people on the panels and the marginalised opinion they hold, the good professor may well have chosen his sample with great care. The very few that do not oppose them, are simply indifferent.

The vast majority of panellists are coming not in their academic capacity, but supported by their self declarations of being ‘activists’. They are using their credentials to further their cause. For let us not make the mistake of equating noise with substance. The activists on this panel are outliers. It is true they do not describe themselves this way and they attempt to cover themselves with  academic validity through suggestions they are merely ‘ahead of the curve’, or even worse, part of ‘a silent majority’. The Israeli activists are particularly prone to the later description, despite all the evidence to the contrary. If one could imagine the UK having an external nemesis,  would it make the opinions of our outliers any more valid just because they would, in another place, receive a stage in which to vent their views?  Would the old USSR calling on the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty to attend a conference, elevate that party to one that is ever anything more than the miniscule sum of its parts, despite the absolute conviction of its members? Within the old USSR would using that party to reflect an academic finding about the entire UK society be valid?

There is nothing wrong with a group of activists gathering together to further their cause. Nothing wrong with outlandish statements,  extreme opinions and flag waving, but Israel clouds people’s minds, on both sides of the great divide. What I always ask people to do when discussing Israel is remove it from the equation. Hold everything else constant, attempt to apply your argument to *any other* argument in the world to see if it still holds true. In this instance we have a conference, with like minded academics that know each other from activist meetings, calling on the opposition outliers to provide artificial validity. The results of this conference are already known because the contributors all agree with each other. They have each other on ‘speed dial’. There is no other opinion to be presented at all. Academic, by any standard, this isn’t. If it is just another, yet relatively elaborate part of, the Palestinian solidarity Campaign shouldn’t it be labelled as such?

These activists all think they are right. They believe that they are in general, more aware, more knowledgeable, more ‘humane’ than others. They believe that the non believers do not understand, haven’t yet seen the light and so on. They wish for their message to be heard. The opposition is considered ignorant, in-humane and regressive. These academics are the mirror image of those they despise the most. Supremacists who vehemently shout down any dissenting voice. My voice in this letter, like others, was dismissed in advance and you were warned it was coming. The classic strategy of religious fanatics protecting their cause. ‘Beware the non-believer’.

My main concern about this conference is the academic cover you provide it and the way it is misrepresented. This is not an academic exercise. This does not provide “a range of opinions”, nor will it break new ground. Most of the participants believe the creation of the State of Israel was a mistake that delivered a gross injustice to the Palestinians. They believe it has no legal validity and is in essence itself a violation of ethics, legality and morality. They believe the only just way forward is to create a single state for all its citizens.  There, conference over. This will be the finding. If you ask 100 anorexics what they have for breakfast, the finding does not reflect what people have for breakfast.

The program clearly states this conference is not external, but being run by the ‘Law School‘, this would I imagine, despite section 43, place a burden on the organisers to ensure certain standards are maintained. The University of Southampton I assume has standards of academic integrity. This one is from Oxford

“(1)        The University expects all members of the University including staff and students and those who are not members of the University but who are conducting research on University premises or using University facilities or funding for their research, to observe the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the conduct of their research. In pursuance of such high standards they must:

a)     be honest in proposing, conducting and reporting research”

Does the code of practice at the University of Southampton allow one of your Professors to present the list below as “a range of opinions”? Because of the university affiliation, the findings of this conference will undoubtedly be used in research, referenced frequently and devoured by its eager audience; does this conference therefore reflect the highest standards of ethics and integrity?  Does the University of Southampton have a similar code of ethics to Oxford? Will your code of practice allow the professor and the activists who are gathering, to present the findings as the outcome of an academic conference at the Law School of the University of Southampton rather than simply the truth, that this ‘trial’ was conducted in a Kangaroo court?

The pure academic truth is that if *any* first year undergraduate student presented  an essay in which the source material was so badly skewed, he would be given a straight fail by any marker in the land.

It is for the University of Southampton to distance itself from this conference. This is nothing but a group of activists gathering together to wave their religious flag accompanied by a couple of ‘indifferents’ who wish to bask in the sun. These people exist in a paradigm, in which for them, exceptions and anomalies are all explained within the body of their underlying premise. The academic result of such a situation is simply an ever increasing need for these activists to outdo themselves in struggling to maintain a cohesive argument. Ever increasing circles by a group cut off from everyone else by a preconception no one else is worth listening to. This conference is an attempt by radical diehards to go one step further in proving the world is flat. It isn’t ground-breaking at all, rather, it is depressingly formulaic, archaic and transparent. They are going to declare Israel isn’t legitimate from the core. There may be a place for such radical discourse in society, but it should not under any circumstances be allowed to hide under an umbrella of authenticity when it is nothing more than a ‘hate fest’.

I wish to ask the professor TEN simple questions, I believe the University of Southampton should be asking them with me:

1. Professor Oren Ben-Dor, you described the list of names below as providing a “range of opinions”, how is that comment academically justified?

2. If one of your students suggested it was possible to draw conclusions using a biased list like the one below or they argued that it represented a ‘range of opinions’, how would you address him?

3. Will the statements made at the end of this conference be reported as if they are connected to the University of Southampton and be represented as part of unbiased research?

4.  As we all already know what these statements will be, what is the purpose of this gathering?

5. I assume you accept that most of the panellists are self described Pro-Palestinian ‘activists’ and ‘hate’ Israel. Given the make-up of the panels, I assume you accept most of the audience will fit this description too. As almost all of the panellists and audience will vehemently ‘hate’ Israel, what academic steps have you taken to ensure that ‘hate’ is not an integral part of the conference?

6. Will you acknowledge in any statements made at the end of this conference and will you acknowledge in your findings that the panellists involved contained a highly selective sample reflected in 80% of them being active ‘boycott supporters’?

7. Why is there not a single panellist who provides another side of the debate, not one?

8. Given the boycott of Israel is still a minority viewpoint, even amongst academics, how are around 80% of your panellists active boycott supporters?

9. As an activist who is dedicated to your cause. Do you consider yourself academically qualified to judge legal matters on the subject?

10.  Why in all of the materials I have seen on the conference do you refrain from pointing out the inherent bias contained within?

And I wish to ask the  University of Southampton  one question.

The list below clearly highlights the ridiculous and pre-meditated bias of this conference. It also emphasises that no dissenting viewpoint will be given a hearing. Your University name will be used as cover for a quasi-religious movement that silences dissent in an attempt to give it standing and credibility. It exists in a closed world that focuses on a single enemy. This is not academia, this is not research, academia is about furthering knowledge, this conference is one of hate. Given the current atmosphere, can you really claim this conference is held “with due regard for the need to respect others and promote the best interests of the University and academic learning” and does it “apply the principles of justice and fairness“. So, in asking why you are allowing this to happen and given the questions to the professor, what steps have the University of Southampton taken to ensure that ‘hate’ will not be an integral part of the conference?


(I have tried wherever possible to ensure maximum accuracy in this listing. Given the size of the list and the nuances involved, it was a large undertaking. Language was also a barrier, with some academics producing little or no work in English – I apologise in advance if any errors have been made.)

PANEL 1 –  History(s) of Palestine and International Law

Prof. Gabi Piterberg from the University of California at Los Angeles. Piterberg has called Israel’s system akin to Apartheid and actively supports the boycott.  More on hisperspective here

Professor Nur Masalha, St. Mary’s College, University of Surrey. Frequently described as aPalestinian activist online. Supports the general divestment and the academic boycotts

Professor. Ilan Pappe, Department of History, University of Exeter. Hardly needs an introduction, also described as an activist.  He is the author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006). Firmly believes Israel is racist, apartheid, an ethnically cleansing state and so on. Actively supports the boycott

Dr. Victor Kattan, Law Faculty, National University of Singapore. Actively supports thePalestinian position. Called for papers on BDS and actively supports the boycott.

Professor Nadim N. Rouhana, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Spoken on theone state solution.  And spoke during Israeli Apartheid week.

After lunch speaker – Professor Richard Falk. Professor of International Law, Princeton University. Another one that needs little introduction, with his own personal wiki section on the conflict.  Has compared Israel’s policies to the Nazi’s and wrote an article called “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust”. Actively supports the boycott, calling it a ‘civic duty’.

PANEL 2 – Political Philosophy and Political Zionism

Professor Yosefa Loshitzky, School of Oriental and African Studies. Loshitzky is currentlywriting a book called ‘Just Jews? Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Contemporary Culture and Beyond’. Make of that what you will. Talks about how Israelis enjoy the suffering of Palestinians, uses Nazi metaphors to describe the conflict and actively supports the boycott.

Professor Brad Roth, Wayne State University. Less writing available online, but activelysupported a boycott.

Dr. Sylvie Delacroix, University College, London. The first of the panellists who I could not place on any boycott list. Has spoken about the Palestinian constitution (the YouTube title is misleading). An article she wrote on the subject was titled in deference to a Mahmoud Darwish quote. Her only reference to violence was to suggest the first Intifada which “may never have managed to be completely non-violent”.  An interesting description of a 6 year fight that saw 200 Israelis killed, 3000 injured and an extraordinary 1000 Palestinian lives lost to intra-Palestinian violence. Having said that, credit where it is due, Delacroix seems to take the most balanced academic approach of all those referenced to this point.

Dr. Ronit Lentin, Retired Associate Professor Sociology, Trinity College, Dublin. Wiki statesLentin “has published extensively on racism”, described by BDS Sydney as an ‘activist’,  Lentin has said “Israel is determined to eliminate the Palestinians”, “a logic of genocide”. Actively supports the boycott

PANEL 3: Apartheid as an International Crime – the legal implications for Palestine

Dr. John Reynolds, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway. Reynolds participation in a 2013 paper ‘Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. States elsewhere that Israel is a colonial power, the resistance is understandable, the rockets are understandable and Reynolds supports the boycott 

Dr. Anthony Löwstedt, Webster University Vienna. Lowestedt claims that 98% of “all gross human rights violations so far committed in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are sole responsibilities of the Israeli Jews, and talks of Israeli apartheid. In that piece Lowestedt claims that “the Israel lobby does not take it well that students are still to some extent being told and taught the truth about Israel and Palestine”. He references  “The Israeli state death squads” and claims that ““In many cases, it is enough for a Palestinian to get killed if s/he even looks at a military installation or a soldier the wrong way”.  He claims “the supreme goal is to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Palestine” although whilst in Israel he “did not get to discuss this matter in detail with Israelis”. Riddled with inaccuracies such as “you must be a Jew to serve in the Israeli army and if you are not a Jew you cannot serve in the army”, distortions and statistical headstands, these pieces show that Lowstedt’s opinion is driven fiercely by his internal clock rather than through some academic process of research.

Professor George Bisharat, University of California. Bisharat is a Palestinian-American professor of law who clearly supports a one state solution. He believes Israel is committingwar crimes and calls for a boycott of Israeli apartheid. Bisharat continually uses Nazi references, talks of massacres and master plans and frequently addresses complex historic events with simple sound bites, one sided propaganda, and outright distortions.

Professor Oren Ben-Dor, Law School, University of Southampton. One of the organisers and ‘hosts’ for the event, he has claimed “Israeli Apartheid is the Core of the Crisis”, going on of course to claim “Only when this realization sinks in will it be possible to envision a stable political solution–a single state over all historic Palestine”. Ben Dor actively supports the boycott  and another piece against the silencing of Gilad Atzmon, provide a wonderful insight into the hypocrisy and double standards of leading academics who promote the Israeli boycott.

The panel is followed by ‘Unmade Film’ an exhibition by Uriel Orlow which parallels the Holocaust and Deir Yassin. Orlow recently spent an evening with the Hackney Branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign  and has frequently signed up for anti-israeli petitions. The closing act of the day is Elias Khoury, A Lebanese author.  Khoury ‘spent years gathering from refugees their personal histories of the mass expulsions that attended the creation of Israel. He felt the stories should be given to an Arab Tolstoy, and imagined himself in the role’

PANEL 4: Legitimacy, Self-Determination and Political Zionism

Professor John Strawson, University of East London. Strawson held a previous post at Birzeit University and appears as a signee on anti-Israeli declarations.  Strawson is the first academic on the list who seems to reject the label Apartheid, which in turns raises the question – why wasn’t he on the Apartheid panel?

Dr. Ghada Karmi, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies University of Exeter. Writes frequently on Palestinian issues in newspapers and magazines.  According to the Wiki page, Karmi clearly believes that “Israel does not deserve to continue as a state”. In favour of a one state solution she notes “would be the end of a Jewish state in our region”. Karmi openly calls herself an activist, describing Zionism a “loathsome” ideology. Karmi incredibly declares in the same piece that the radicalization and extremism of Arab societies “can be traced back to Israel.” Apparently another academic with a mental block, she declares there were no pogroms in Arab lands, and actively promotes the boycott.

Dr. Blake Alcott, Unaffiliated Researcher, London. Alcott’s article  ‘a two-state solution is a Zionist solution’ clearly states his position as he declares that the Zionist goal is for ‘eretz israel’ to be ‘Araberrein’, which again sees Nazi terminology used in descriptions of Zionism. Calls Noam Chomsky a ‘soft zionist’ and actively supports the boycott. Hypocritically, Alcott finds bias uncomfortable when it doesn’t suit him.

Ntina Tzouvala, Doctoral Researcher, Law School, University of Durham,UK. Still working towards a PHD and not much to find on Tzouvala in English

PANEL 5 Israel’s Domestic Law: Inbuilt Limits of Constitutional Reflection?

Lea Tsemel, an Israeli lawyer and leading human rights activist. Described by the BBC as “the woman who defends suicide bombers”. Has stated the country took a cue from Nazi Germany–“the same racism, the same hatred, the same ideology of super race. Tsemel has supported the boycott

Sawsan Zaher, Senior Attorney at Adalah. Stated that ‘discriminatory policies are one thing but when you have discriminatory laws, this is apartheid‘.

Dr. Valentina Azarov (Al-Quds University). Quite an academic backstory  but hardly one that suggests academic even-handedness. Actively supports the boycott and believes thesolution to the issues are to be found in the international criminal courts.

Dr. Mazen Masri, City University, London. Has served as legal advisor to the Negotiations Affairs Department of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Masri is active in supporting the boycott  and uses parallels of apartheid to desribe the israeli system.

PANEL 6: Israeli Citizenship and Israeli Nationality.

Dr. Jeff Handmaker, the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus. Suggests companies such as IKEA are complicit in a serious human rights violation, lending support to the settlement enterprise. Apartheid, war crimes, cover-up’s, quite the collection. Handmaker has argued that ‘true humanity’ will be found when “the Israeli regime is held accountable for decades of repression, dispossession and regional destabilisation.”

Yoella Har-Sheffi (sp?). Har-Sheffi is apparently not a practising University Academic, so beyond understanding she is in the legal field, there is little to find on her in English. She did argue for the ban of Wagner to be lifted, was ‘fired’ from her mainstream paper as a journalist for her beliefs and openly deplored Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Called on  the UK government to recognise Palestine.

Ofra Yeshua-Lyth, writer, Journalist, member of Jaffa One State. Yeshua Lyth says that a secular democratic state is actually a call for the annihilation of Israel, a call she supports. Claims Israel built an apartheid state on the basis of religion  and ethnicity. Actively supports the boycott.

Noura Erakat, Assistant Professor, George Mason University. Described as a Palestinian American legal scholar. Goes beyond Apartheid to declare Israeli policies are “ethnic cleansing”. Erakat’s party pieces are pure propaganda, full of distorted facts and out of context responses. Erakat actively supports the boycott.

PANEL 7: Israel’s Regime of Property Rights, Labour, Education and Housing

Dr Uri Davis, Al-Quds University, Jerusalem Abu Dis, and University of Exeter, UK. Although an academic, the wiki page, refers to him as an activist, who was the ‘founding member of the Movement against Israeli Apartheid in Palestine’. Actively promotes the boycott.

Mia Tamarin. Israeli who studied in the UK and applied for conscientious objecter status and became an activist on her return to Israel. Beyond doing the rounds, being held aloft by those on the other side of the great divide and clearly suited to the agenda, one can only ask academically, what she is doing there.

Dr. Haitam Suleiman, al-Quds University, Jerusalem, and Prof. Robert Home, Law School, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford, United Kingdom.  Have worked together on a paper that suggests Israel’s story now lies ‘within a colonial and postcolonial narrative’ and explains the article is the outcome of field research undertaken by a Palestinian Arab living in Israel (Suleiman).

Claris Harbon, Doctoral Researcher, McGill University. Specialises mainly on subjectsconcerning the subordination of subaltern minorities and disempowered groups such as Mizrahis (Jews of Arab/Muslim Descent), women, Arab- Israelis and children. Works on another aspect of a discriminatory Israel, specifically from an Ashkenasi /Spharedi angle.

PANEL 8: Palestine in Comparative Re-thinking of International Law

Dr. Monika Halkot, Department of Communication Arts, American University of Beirut, Lebanon.  Unable to locate via the English university website, despite the comprehensive listings. Unable to locate on Google.

Dr. Marcelo Svirsky. Wollongong University, Australia. Only need to read this piece ‘From Auschwitz To Sderot: The Decline Of Our Humanity‘ to understand his position. Actively supports the boycott.

Dr. Michael Kearney, School of Law, University of Sussex, UK. International Law speech that deals with Israeli ‘apartheid’, an article on Israeli ‘war crimes’.

Professor Ugo Mattei, Distinguished Professor of Law, and Alfred and Hanna Fromm Chair in International and Comparative Law, University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Signed the ‘One State Declaration’ (the end of Israel).

PANEL 9: Assumption of Responsibility for the Suffering in Palestine

Dr. Regina Rauxloh, Associate Professor in Law, University of Southampton. Israel does not  appear to be Rauxloh’s field, so I assume if her associate, Professor Oren Ben-Dor was not holding this on this own home turf, Rauxloh wouldn’t be present.

Professor Kevin Jon Heller, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS),London. Another academic from SOAS, he states here he is “generally wary of academic boycotts“, so it would be interesting to know how he voted in the recent SOAS wide boycott vote that saw a 60-40% split amongst ‘SOAS staff’. Heller not as rabid as his colleagues, but still maintains a clear fascination with tweets such as “Israel doesn’t need tunnels. It sows #terror through bombs, artillery, missiles, tanks, ground troops”.

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. Talks of policies of fear and colonialism, politicises the internal violence against Palestinian women by suggesting “Colonialism is empowering killers and sustaining internal crimes through bureaucratic and legal means”. Is part of the pro-Palestinian speaking circuit, incredibly suggests here that ‘ Rape and other forms of sexual violence against Palestinian women have always been an element of the settler colonial state’s attempts to destroy and eliminate indigenous Palestinians from their land’.

Salma Karmi Ayyub, Criminal Barrister, UK. Is or has been an external consultant for the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq. Writes frequently about possible Israeli war crimes, taking Israel to the ICC is described as a leading Palestinian activist who discusses and defends BDS in this video.

PANEL 10: Responsibility for Return

Dr. Salman Abu-Sitta, Land Society Palestine. Abu-Sitta is a Palestinian researcher. He writes about Palestinian refugees and the Palestinian right of return. States “Palestine is the patrimony of Palestinians. No amount of spin, Hasbara, or Za’bara, myths, bombs, F16s, roadblocks, siege, walls, ethnic cleansing and Apartheid will change that. Remember that”.  Supports a boycott.

Dr. Ruba Salih, Reader in Gender Studies, SOAS, London. Palestinian academic, has written and researched Palestinian issues, including this piece on the refugees. Opposes sanctions against Iran as sanctions hurt the children and the weak, supports boycott against Israel.

Dr. Catriona Drew, School of Law, SOAS. Unsure of her academic  position as only hasone article listed on the SOAS site. Called on the UK to stop the violence in Gaza. Does not publicly appear to participate in BDS.

Dr. Mutaz Qafisheh, College of Law, Hebron University. Wrote on Palestine in the UN. Was a Legal Advisor and Project Manager for the Palestinian Legislative Council.

PANEL 11: Responsibility and Belonging, Religion, Politics and Law.

Dr. Hatem Bazian, Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. A Palestinian activist, Bazian’s ‘reading list’ for Palestine highlights how he views balance and  integrity in academic research. From an online search, Bazian seems one of the most extreme of the ‘esteemed academics’ on display at the conference.Talks of Apartheid, Ethnic Cleansing, Murder and Oppression.  Called for an international day of action for Palestine, is an activist on Twitter and Facebook and actively calls for a boycott.

Professor Yakov Rabkin, Professor of History, University of Montréal. Author of a book A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Claims Israel’s ‘turn to the right’ is now termed fascist by ‘the mainstream’ and Israel has “become a beacon for right-wing movements around the world thanks to a gamut of ideological, political, economic and military values contained in political Zionism”. Active against Zionism, fights against the anti-Semitic label of the boycott and promotes the legitimacy of the boycott, if not the boycott itself.

Professor Haim Bresheeth, School of Oriental and African Studies. Another scholar who is a self-described activist. In a piece that I am sure even he may consider foolish today Bresheeth states that Israel can only be explained by the many decades of instrumental colonialism, a place where to be ‘pro Israeli’ is to be foolish. That Israel will only relent under the most intense political, financial and cultural pressure from the world community. That pressure is now developing swiftly, and is now more likely than ever to lead to the collapse of the apartheid state in the Middle East. Actively supported the boycott.

Professor Gil Anidjar, Department of Religion, Columbia University. Another academic whose name seems to be tied in with anything that is against Israel. Saw the Geneva Accord as too bad a deal for Palestinians, agreed with a statement that calls the current situation apartheid  and actively supports boycott.

PANEL 12: Responsibility and Belonging: Palestine as Political, Ecological and Legal Space

Professor Joel Kovel, Unaffiliated Researcher. Another academic referred to as a ‘political activist’. Kovel’s 2007 book Overcoming Zionism argues that “the creation of Israel was a mistake”.  Argues that Israel practices  ‘state-sponsored racism’ fully as incorrigible as that of apartheid South Africa and deserving of the same resolution. Has been active in calling for a boycott of Israel.

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio. Described as  a ‘de-colonizer’ and in that video says the system meets the definition of Apartheid. One of the founders of Zochrot. Bronstein AparicioActively supports the boycott.

Mr. Walaa Sbeit, musician, Iqrit, Palestine / Mr. John Assi, Director of the UNESCO Chair on Human Rights and Democracy at al-Najah University. Sbeit is a Palestinian musician whilst Assi, from a University in Nablus, is active in calling for a ‘nuclear free Israel’.

Professor Virginia Tilley, Department of Political Science, Southern Illinois University. Wrote a book called ‘the One State Solution’ and led a research team that “found that Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are consistent with colonialism and apartheid”. This piece is a must read to understand Tilley’s mind-set and Tilley actively supports boycott.

PANEL 13 / A round table is planned with new speakers expected to be added.



Categorized | Palestine Affairs

Conference on International Law and the State
of I$raHell

Legal scholarship on Palestine-Israel and international law has largely focused on the Israeli occupation since 1967 of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and the illegality of Israel’s settlements and apartheid colonization in these territories.

This conference will include focus on the legality of the creation and the nature of the Jewish state itself.

An international interdisciplinary conference will be hosted by the Law School at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, 24th-26th October, 2014.
International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism.


This conference seeks to analyse the challenge posed to international law by the Jewish State of Israel and the whole of historic Palestine – the area to the west side of River Jordan that includes both what is now the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967.

For its initial existence, the State of Israel has depended on a unilateral declaration of statehood and as well on both the expulsion (some would say the ethnic cleansing) of large numbers of non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs in 1947-49 and the prevention of their return.  Furthermore, the Jewish nature of the state has profoundly affected the economic, constitutional, political and social life of those non-Jewish Arabs who were allowed to stay. Up to this day, as recently confirmed by its Supreme Court, Israel does not recognize an Israeli nationality but officially has a list of 139 ‘nationalities’, of which only the ‘Jewish nationality’ bestows some vital privileges.  This fact generates the possibility of the exclusion of non-Jewish citizens of Israel by racial gerrymandering and the existence of two layers of Israeli citizenship and an inherent differential between Jews and non-Jews.

Legal scholarship on Palestine-Israel and international law, involving issues of self-determination, human rights and constitutional law, has largely focused on the Israeli occupation since 1967 of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza and the illegality of Israel’s settlements and apartheid colonization in these territories.

Alongside these debates there has been a persistent if marginalized scholarship examining and analyzing problems associated with the creation and the nature of the Jewish state itself and the status of Jerusalem.

UN Palestine Partition Plan Never Approved  Arial Black 36

This research has combined historical scholarship and legal analysis and problematized the manner the State of Israel came into existence as well as what kind of state it is. The issues explored linked reflections on the relationship between international law and: identity and injustice; violence and morality; nationality and citizenship; self-determination and legitimacy, responsibility and exceptionalism. 


The motivation for this interdisciplinary conference is to examine the role international law can play in political struggles. The search is for certain steps enabling movement and dynamism and allowing ongoing critical reflection about transitional justice and the tension between political pursuits and international law. The conference will seek to overcome doctrinal limits and contradictions by bringing to light ideological and existential fetters that perhaps render international law the very instrument of rationalization of violence and suffering. The question to be debated is what international law demands with respect to any envisioned constitutional basis for historic Palestine. This basis must constantly be subjected to the dynamic constitutional challenges of equal citizenship for all through a framework of equality and liberty as well as through social, economic and cultural rights.

The organizers will invite a range of legal perspectives, and in turn, disagreements, in international law regarding the Israeli state including, of course, whether such a focus is itself legally justifiable and defensible in the context of the emergence of legal and political entities more generally. In organizing this conference, it is felt that there are enough questions that justify rigorous academic exploration and public debate without partisanship.

Given the urgency of responding to – indeed the urgent responsibility to answer for and to avert – the persistent suffering in historic Palestine, it is time to give a scholarly, academic platform to the exploration of pervasive disagreements regarding the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish State and the status of Jerusalem.   Given recent developments in International law, particularly the dynamic nature of its self-understanding and in turn, its responsibility, radical disagreement and arguments become possible that defend a conception of the kind of protection international law ought to be offering.  It is thus time to bring together leading scholars in international law, in both doctrine and jurisprudence, some of whom do not necessarily write on Palestine and ask them to explore architectures of arguments that could respond to the suffering that afflict historic Palestine.

The conference will thus include focus on the legality of the State of Israel rather than merely on whether its actions, either within its borders or in the Occupied Territories, comply with international law, human rights law and humanitarian law.

Palestinian refugee camp in 1948 near Damascus, Syria.  600 X 459

Palestinian refugee camp in 1948 near Damascus, Syria.

The conference will, however, consider the relationship between the nature of these actions and the nature of the state itself.

The conference will be the first of its kind because it links three main interlinked pillar-themes:

  1. The legality, validity and legitimacy in international law of the Israeli state, a state whose very nature, indeed its raison d’être, is based on constraining both the egalitarian, transformative potential that constitutes the impulse of international law as well as any free internal constitutional reflection, giving as it does constitutionally entrenched, privileged citizenship to Jews.
  2. Responsibility: the conference explores the challenge posed by Historic Palestine to ethical reflections on legal principles that demands the answerability of and action by, actors in International Law.
  3. The question of exceptionalism and the law is a key theme in legal and constitutional reflection, and Palestine serves as a place within which to explore this notion of ‘exception’. On the one hand, as to whether and how to address its inbuilt non-egalitarian basis but also, on the other hand, whether to make it a moral exception that allows toleration of some of the injustice as ‘reasonable injustice’.   The suffering of European Jews is often cited as a justification for the existence and nature of the state in the geographical location of historic Palestine, thus eschewing structured suffering inflicted on the non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs by that state.  Relatedly and additionally, debates will ensue as to whether there is any ground to hold Israel as exceptional in comparison with other unjust regimes, especially given the fact that many states, including the United States and Australia, were established with extreme violence towards indigenous populations.

The conference will link legal, ethical, political, historical and philosophical issues that follow from these pillars.  In so doing, it will have to consider the extent to which the legal challenge posed by historic Palestine necessitates a meditation on the nature of international law itself: what it is, what it is for, and to what extent the state is an essential actor with a duty to respond to and avert structural and systematic injustice and suffering. Depending on the views taken on these questions, legal arguments can overcome conventional limits of many of its doctrines including self-determination, international criminal law, peremptory norms of international law, states’ and United Nations responsibility, state recognition and indeed the whole basis for norm creation and enforcement in international law.

Self-interpretation of international law, moreover, will be linked to some argumentative possibilities within it, for instance concerning the challenge posed by historic Palestine to international law’s dependence on the notion of ‘a state’. Nothing short of the contestable limits, and thus potentialities, of international law is at stake. The conference will include a detailed examination of Israel’s domestic law, the reflexivity of Israel’s constitutional structure with reference to its own domestic law, and its structural ability or inability to observe international legal obligations.

In considering these issues complex questions arise concerning the relation of law and morality, the philosophy and history of international law, and wider subjects ranging from the history of Palestine to general philosophy. The conference will therefore be highly inter-disciplinary, enabling the formation and contestation of appropriately informed legal arguments. Last but not least, the connection between the constitutional Israeli municipal law and international law demands critical and refined exploration and debate.

A Platform for Debate 

Recognizing the moral as well as legal complexities these issues raise, and the intensity of emotions involved, the conference’s purpose is to open up and serve as a platform for scholarly debates rather than an activist aim of adopting a firm normative position. In exploring possible legal arguments and disagreements that relate the jurisprudence of international law to its various doctrines, the conference will provide a wide range of perspectives and outlooks. These can explore and contest radically different views concerning the legal duty and capacity of international law, jurisdictionally and in terms of institutional responsibility, to enforce a reasoned position with regard to the prima facie case for asking the question of the legal validity and legitimacy of the Israeli state. In turn, it can examine the condition of validity for any future polity that can be envisioned in historic Palestine.

Palestine and International Law  Henry Cattan

Palestine and International Law by Henry Cattan

Dedication of Conference and Book

The conference and the book of its proceedings will be dedicated to Henry Cattan (1906-1992), a leading Palestinian international lawyer, indeed a legal prophet, who long ago mounted a challenge to the validity of the state of Israel and the legal and moral authority of those institutions that brought it about.

Papers and Panels

The conference will be plenary and will consist of invited keynotes and panels each consists of three or four 20 minutes papers.   Substantial time will be given for audience participation.

Please send a title and 250 words abstract and a 150 word biographical note to: plstnlaw@soton.ac.uk.  Please include personal details, institutional affiliation and email address.

Deadline for panels and papers Friday 25th of April 2014


The conference will have its webpage linked to Southampton Law School Website from April 2014.

For general inquiries concerning themes and nature of conference please contact:

Professor Oren Ben-Dor, Law School, University of Southampton, UK, obd@soton.ac.uk.

Professor George Bisharat , University of California Hastings College of the Law, US, bisharat@uchastings.edu.

For General inquiries regarding organisation, registration and accommodation please contact:

Ms. Jo Hazel, Event Coordinator, Faculty of Business and Law, University of Southampton,J.Hazel@soton.ac.uk.


The proceedings of the conference will be published as an edited collection and the whole conference will be documented and filmed.

Fees and Funding

We will be able to either fully fund, or to substantially assist with the funding of, contributors’ expenses who will give papers and keynote addresses.

There will be a conference fee £50 people on wages, students £30 and not fees for the unwaged.  Payment will be made with the online registration, please follow the webpage for alternative method of payment.

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