The University of Exeter has succeeded in coming to a compromise deal over a conference that has received criticism from the Jewish community.
The event, entitled Settler Colonialism in Palestine, which has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, is set to take place between the 3rd and the 4th October. When the University announced the event, it was greeted with “fierce letters from the Jewish Community”, with many expressing their unhappiness with the event and others calling for its cancellation.
In light of the controversy that surrounded the cancellation of a similar conference at the University of Southampton earlier this year, it was felt that it was a matter of principle that academics should have the freedom to organise their own peer-reviewed conferences if they so wished.
Following extensive negotiations with the Jewish Leadership Council and Universities UK, Exeter has agreed to host a separate debate – chaired by Sir Steve Smith himself – about the wider issues within the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The speakers will be put forward by the University’s European Centre for Palestine Studies and the JLC, with additional input being provided by student societies at Exeter, in order to ensure equal representation.
Speaking to the Times Higher Education Supplement, Theo French and Hana Elias, Presidents of the Friends of Palestine student society at Exeter greeted the agreement, stating that it enforces “the maintenance of academic freedom and freedom of speech, which together contribute to the constructive dialogue so badly needed in this conflict”.
Alongside this, Simon Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of the JLC, stated that he was “pleased to have worked with the university on this issue and thank the university leadership for their constructive approach and their willingness to address Jewish community concerns whilst fearlessly protecting academic freedom.”