Israel conference to go ahead in Cork

A controversial conference is set to go ahead this month but will be jointly staged between Cork City Hall and UCC

A conference that has caused friction between the Embassy of Israel in Ireland and University College Cork (UCC) is to take place this month, but will be jointly held by both UCC and Cork City Hall, organisers announced last week.

The conference entitled “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility” will take place from March 31 to April 2. The conference was originally scheduled to have been held in April 2015 in Southampton University, but was cancelled due to “security concerns”.

Similar security concerns, and concerns for disruption to staff and students, lead to UCC managers asking in January for certain conditions to be met before official permission could be granted to hold the conference on campus.

In order to meet these conditions, organisers have moved the conference to Cork City Hall for the first two days. The last two days will move the speakers and audience to UCC. Other conditions included the requirement of an event-management plan, and the submission of a budget which would cover any additional costs to the university, namely security.

The organisers include UCC staff, but the event itself is not sponsored or promoted by the university.

The Israeli embassy had stated that it was “deeply concerned” about the event. In a statement, the embassy accused organisers of promoting an “unbalanced agenda within academic institutions, that seeks to demonise and delegitimise Israel”. However, organisers of the conference insist that pro-Israel speakers will be speaking, which include Professor Geoffrey Alderman from the University of Buckingham. The conference is being organised jointly by both Palestinian and Israeli academics, and will examine the legitimacy of the Israeli state under international law.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner about management concerns, UCC president Professor Patrick O’Shea has said that “it’s not an academic freedom issue, it’s simply a matter of ensuring that participants and students are not interfered with, we all have the normal day-to-day work of the university to think of”.