Palestinian Scholars Condemn French University’s Decision to Cancel Conference Following Pro-Israeli Pressure

amphiParis8

PNN/Exclusive Feb 27 2012

Further to the pressure exercised by French pro-Israel groups, the board of the French University “Paris 8” announced that it has ordered the administrative closure of the University until February 29th in order to prevent the organization of the conference “Israel: Apartheid State ?”. The seminar was meant to analyse the relevance of the concept of Apartheid for the study of the Palestinian issue, and to examine the legitimacy and legality of the “Boycott, Disinvestments, Sanctions” (BDS) campaign in the academic field.

According to Dr. Liza Traky, Professor of philosophy at Birzeit University and a founding member of the “Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” campaign, “this step is another sign of the Israeli lobby’s work in Europe and the U.S. to trump the voices that call for Palestinian rights and for Boycotting Israel”. She added “The University’s position was cowardly and weak; the conference was cancelled due to pressure onto the University’s board”.

French pro-Israeli lobbies had indeed pushed strongly for the cancellation of the event, considering it “an incitement to national, racial or religious discrimination”.

Paris 8 University board rejects the responsibility of the closure on the conference’s organizers who, despite the interdiction issued by the President, had decided to maintain the conference inside the University.

Al-Quds University Vice-President, Dr. Said Zaidani, said to PNN that “international Jewish groups pressure the Universities and academics that try to take a balanced position on the Palestinian/Israeli issue”; adding ” this shows the extent of power and influence that the Zionist organizations have, influencing France intellectually, academically, and through the media to support Israel and it’s government’s policies”.

In a press release, Palestine Paris 8 Committee, organizer of the conference, says that “the Committee is accountable for its choice but doesn’t consider itself as responsible for the closure of the University, which is a decision that must be firmly condemned. It is the stubbornness of the University President to refuse the organization of the seminar –despite a letter signed by 500 University professors and researchers, despite Paris 8 University students’ protests (more than 1000 signatures), despite condemnations from most of the University’s unions and associations, and despite the stance taken by several heads of departments within the University – which has led to this deadlock”.

“By taking this decision on the ground that the conference allegedly represents a ‘threat to public order’, the President has sacrificed the freedom of education and opinion that he pretended to defend by forbidding the event. We therefore invite all the students to exercise their liberties by attending the conference”.

Initially planned to take place inside Paris 8 University, the conference has a rich programme of debates and more than 300 registered attendees. The organizers have announced that the conference will therefore take place in another venue at the date and time originally scheduled.


Related: Israel. Not looking for Peace. Nor Talks. But this…


Eloïse Fonteyn for PNN

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