DUBLIN — The final day of an international conference debating Israel’s right to exist opened with the accusation that the Jewish state is “no longer guided by the ‘book,’ but instead by the power of the gun.”
The conference, held at the University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, was entitled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy Exceptionalism and Responsibility.” Previously scheduled for Southampton University in the United Kingdom, is was cancelled there due to heavy protests and security concerns. Instead, it was held from March 31 through April 2 in Cork City Hall and venues at UCC.
The claim that Zionism is based only on “blood and might” and seeks to do away with the “meek” Jew came from the first speaker, Dr. Hatem Bazian, professor of Near Eastern studies at University of California Berkeley. Bazian accused Zionists of adopting “a racist, genocidal and exclusive world view” and claimed they had “embarked on a national project of settler colonialism.”
The event was headlined by controversial Jewish scholar, Prof. Richard Falk, author of the recently rejected UN report labeling Israel as “apartheid.” The conference hosted over 40 speakers — only one of whom was pro-Israel.
The conference has been steeped in controversy for months and one Israel advocacy group accusing it of a lack of balance. The Irish4Israel group described the conference on Facebook as “a meeting of people who have chosen to spend their lives fighting the Jewish state.”
University of Montreal History Prof. Yakov Rabkin, author of a widely-criticized but also acclaimed text on historic Jewish opposition to Zionism, said that the opposition to the holding of the conference “was just part of the Zionist project.”
Meanwhile Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, a prominent researcher on the Palestinian right of return, told a hugely supportive audience that the only barrier to such a move was what he described as Israeli “apartheid.”
“There is no moral, legal, demographic, geographic, or historic reason why [Palestinians] cannot return [to Israel proper],” said Abu Sitta.
Displaying maps and graphics of population densities in Israel, the civil engineer accused the state of perpetrating “the most comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation in history.”
Abu Sitta warned, however, that by 2030 there will be 18 million Palestinians who will be living on Palestinian-controlled land or within 100 miles of it and “they will not need ships to get home.”
Abu Sitta explained he was making practical plans.
“We have records of all the land in Palestine and who owns it,” he claimed. “Many of the villages are still empty and as for the damaged ones we know how many bags of cement we will need to rebuild them.”
On the opening day of the conference, Richard Falk, professor of international law at Princeton and former UN special rapporteur, described the foundation of the state as “the most successful terror campaign in history.”
He further claimed that democracies “accepted Israel [only] to smooth their own consciences.”
Prof. Alan Johnson, senior research fellow at the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM) withdrew as a speaker in advance of the conference because he felt the presence of Falk as a keynote speaker amounted to “an attempt to normalize anti-Semitism.”
Meanwhile Prof. Yosefa Loshitzky from the London University School of Oriental and African studies provoked major controversy when she used the Nazi term “untermensch,” meaning sub-human in English, when outlining what she alleged were Israel’s “crimes against humanity.”
One of the event organizers, Dr. Piaras MacEinri, who is a professor of geography at UCC, intervened at the conference on Saturday to tell the audience that he was unhappy at the tone of the debate. He later told The Times of Israel that the use of the word “untermensch” was unhelpful and that in fact it is “probably only Israelis and Jews that have the right to use it.”
“Comparing what is happening in the Middle East with what happened in Nazi Germany is historically incorrect and I would never accept such a comparison,” he added.
MacEinri, while defending the theme of the conference attended by 170 delegates, reiterated that hate speech is never acceptable.
“When there was a move to bring Holocaust denier David Irving to this college in the past I opposed it,” he said.
“No one at the conference called for the destruction of Israel or supported groups like Hamas,” MacEinri said.
“While we were very disappointed by the loss of Prof. Alan Johnson from the conference, full credit must go to historian Geoffrey Alderman who spoke trenchantly in defense of Israel in front of an audience who really opposed his views,” said MacEinri.