I was reading with some amusement a post on the Israel advocacy site, Engage, where some zionists were clearly concerned that having the conference cancelled would make the zionist movement look bad whilst others thought the title alone should set alarm bells ringing. Still others thought they could actually make a case for Israel, presumably under the heading, Exceptionalism.
But then Sarah Annes Brown came and spoiled all my fun with this comment:
I checked out twitter to see what was being said and eventually put a question of my own:
March 31, 2015 at 6:30 am
The conference has now been cancelled on safety grounds.
Does anyone know who or what @unisouthampton said was threatening safety at an academic conference on #Israel? https://t.co/opDmx2nCIBAmong the responses was one linking a Jewish Chronicle article putting the name, Sussex Friends of Israel in the frame and some tweeters (tweeps?) thought it was the threat of thuggery from this group that had the uni running for cover. But another article linked below that one thickened the plot just a tad. Headed Southampton University confirms it is considering cancelling anti-Israel conference the piece contains this little gem from the Board of Deputies of British Jews' president, Vivian Wineman:
— Jews Sans Frontieres (@jewssf) March 31, 2015
It appears that the university wanted to buckle to the pressure from the lobby but were unsure which excuse they could use. In correspondence university officials had said that there were no legal grounds to stop the conference. In fact they acknowledged that they were legally obliged to facilitate the conference. So the other "line.. of attack" had to be used: health and safety.“When we had a meeting with the university vice-chancellor they said they would review it on health and safety terms.“The two lines of attack possible were legal and health and safety and they were leaning on that one.”
I should say at this point that the uni hasn't actually made public or, according to itself, even made the final decision but if it does decide to deploy the health and safety excuse it will have to explain this. Now there's something to look forward to.