One of only two speakers due to argue Israel’s case at a conference questioning the existence of the Jewish state has withdrawn from the event over the appearance of an author who has endorsed a book espousing antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Professor Alan Johnson, BICOM’s senior research Fellow, confirmed he has pulled out of the conference in Cork, Ireland in protest at the organisers’ decision to bill Richard Falk as one of the keynote speakers.
In a statement, Prof Johnson, who also edits the Fathom journal, said:“I have informed the organisers of the Cork Conference that I will no longer be participating. The organisers have issued an invitation to Richard Falk to give a keynote speech.
“I had agreed to participate in an academic conference to present a paper in defence of Israel’s right to exist. But by inviting a speaker who espouses antisemitic conspiracy theories the conference is now objectively an attempt to normalise antisemitism and I cannot attend such an event."
The Cork conference, which is titled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility” and begins on March 31, will feature some of the most outspoken critics of Israel. Speakers include anti-Zionist historian Professor llan Pappe and the University of Southampton’s Professor Oren Ben-Dor, who has blamed the Jewish mind set for provoking antisemitism.
Prof Johnson had initially believed he had a duty to attend the event in order to “defend Israel’s right to exist”.
But he told the JC he had decided to withdraw because in his view Mr Falk’s appearance “changes the character of the event”.
He cited Mr Falk’s endorsement of a book by musician and writer Gilad Atzmon, who describes himself as “a proud, self-hating Jew”, as an influencing factor.