Pickles warns Southampton uni over ‘one-sided diatribe’

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Pickles warns Southampton uni over ‘one-sided diatribe’

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Lord Eric Pickles
Lord Eric Pickles

1-southampton-uniEric Pickles has warned Southampton University against “allowing a one-sided diatribe” as the become the most senior politician yet to intervene in the growing row over a major conference into the legitimacy of Israel, writes Justin Cohen.

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.

Community Minister Eric Pickles
Community Minister Eric Pickles

Details of the three-day event, which is being billed as “unique because it concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish state of Israel”, were revealed by Jewish News last month.

But the chorus of opposition has grown over the line-up for the three-day event, which is being organised by Israeli-born Prof. Oren Ben-Dor, who has previously called Israel an “arrogant self-righteous Zionist entity”.

Among the speakers will be Princeton professor Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur, who has in the past faced widespread condemnation over his comments on the Middle East, including his suggestion in 2013 that Israel had “genocidal” intentions” towards the Palestinians.

Pickles told the Jewish News: “Freedom of speech within the law is a long-standing British liberty, but all rights should be exercised with social responsibility, and freedom of speech should go hand in hand with recognising and supporting people’s right to freedom of religion.

“There is a careful line between legitimate academic debate on international law and the actions of governments, and the far-left’s bashing of Israel which often descends into naked anti-Semitism.

“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”.

A petition from the Zionist Federation for the event to be scrapped has already attracted more than 2,500 supporters. Ex-treasury minister Mark Hoban MP has written to university vice chancellor Prof. Don Nutbeam, describing the April event as a “hardline, one-sided forum questioning and delegitimising the existence of a democratic state”.

[polldaddy poll=8720985]

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: