Jewish activists in the UK have condemned “deplorable” statements made at a weekend conference in Ireland examining the legal legitimacy of Israel, and urged financial backers to pull their money.

It comes after one of the speakers, American academic Professor Joel Kovel, told the audience that five Mossad agents were “cheering” the destruction of the Twin Towers during the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“As the towers burned, do you know about the five painters cheering on the process from across the river?” Kovel asked the audience. “They were Mossad agents, six of them actually. They were arrested and disappeared from the face of the earth.” Audience members challenged the statement as “not true” and “anti-Semitic”.

A statement later issued by Jewish Human Rights Watch urged donors to University College Cork (UCC) to pull their funding after allowing a conference featuring Jewish conspiracy theories to go ahead.

“It is deplorable that such lies have been allowed to be spread by UCC, especially as over 400 Jews died out of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians,” the group said.

Denouncing the three-day event as a “festival of Jew hate,” JHRW called on corporate donors to withdraw, naming Apple, Astra Zeneca, Bank of Ireland, GlaxoSmithKline, Jansen Cillag, Pfizer and Trend Micro.

It urged Bupa to do the same, despite it having no connection to the university for more than a decade.

The conference featured a raft of anti-Israel academics, some of whom were born in Israel, and had been originally scheduled to take place in Southampton, but was cancelled under protest from ministers and Jewish groups.

Palestinian academic Dr Ghada Kharmi, who lectures on the Middle East at the University of Exeter, elsewhere provoked controversy by using a Nazi term – ‘untermensch’ (inferior people) to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.