1-southampton-uniAn ex-Treasury minister has backed a campaign to cancel a Southampton University conference questioning the legality and legitimacy of Israel.

Mark Hoban MP wrote to Prof. Don Nutbeam, the university’s vice chancellor, describing the April event as a “hard-line, one-sided forum questioning and delegitimising the existence of a democratic state”.

Hoban said he found it “concerning” that a respected institution should host the three-day anti-Israel extravaganza, and urged it to “reconsider its sponsorship of a debate that will further polarise academic and public debate on this complex issue”.

Mark Hoban MP

Mark Hoban MP

Nutbeam has defended the university’s right to hold the Southampton Law School Conference, which is called ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’.

Organised by Israeli-born Prof. Oren Ben-Dor, who has previously called Israel an “arrogant self-righteous Zionist entity,” the event literature predicts “public debate without partisanship,” despite framing Israel in the context of “other unjust regimes” and “other states established as a consequence of extreme violence towards indigenous populations”.

Pressure to cancel the event has grown over recent weeks, as a petition calling for the event to be dropped registered 2,500 online signatures in a matter of days.

A Zionist Federation spokesman said: “To schedule a conference on the legitimacy of a state that was established over 60 years ago would be strange enough. But by blaming the ‘suffering and injustice in Palestine’ on Israel’s creation and continued presence, this goes beyond being an academic discussion. Instead, it will legitimise the harmful message that Israel’s very existence is up for debate.”