GEOFFREY ALDERMAN

A shame this conference was forced out of Britain

IN common with many other research-orientated scholars, my electronic mailbox is full of exhortations to present papers at academic conferences.

For a variety of reasons, I am forced to reject most of these invites.

But towards the end of 2014, one such invitation caught my eye. Would I consider reading a learned paper to a scholarly gathering to be held in mid-April, 2015, at the University of Southampton, entitled International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism?

Now it so happened (I like to think of it as Divine intervention) that I already had some material prepared that seemed to me ideally suited for this purpose.

So I contacted the conference organisers and was pleased that my proposal - to address the conference on the subject of Jews, Judaism and the Jewish State: Ethnic Rights and International Wrongs - was accepted.

What I proposed to argue (and what I eventually did argue) was that under international law, ethnic Jews have the right of settlement throughout the geographical area of Mandate Palestine west of the Jordan River (including what is known as the West Bank), and that the State of Israel has, therefore, a legal obligation to take all steps necessary to uphold this right.

In so arguing, I proposed to explain (and did eventually explain) that in promoting the settlement of Jews in Judea and Samaria, the Israeli authorities are acting in the capacity of administrator in succession to the British rather than as occupier in succession to the Jordanians (who illegally occupied the West Bank between 1948 and 1967).

It's for this reason that the applicable regime is the Mandate as continued in accordance with Article 80 of the UN Charter, and not various provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention.

In so arguing and so explaining, I proposed to observe (and did eventually observe) that many of the Jewish settlements on the West Bank that Boris Johnson and his boss Theresa May (to say nothing of a miscellany of Jewish lobbies) apparently regard as illegal were, in fact, explicitly authorised by previous UK governments! As we all know, the conference at which I was to argue, explain and observe all of this did take place, but not at Southampton and not in the UK at all.

Faced with objections from no doubt well-meaning but, in fact, utterly misguided Jewish lobbies (including the Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation), the University of Southampton took fright and demanded that the conference organisers contribute 25,000 towards the alleged cost of policing the event.

The legitimacy of this demand was then upheld in a court of law.

Other UK universities were approached, but to no avail. So the conference was eventually relocated in the city of Cork in the Irish Republic.

And it was there, on March 31, 2017, that I stood before a packed audience (the overwhelming majority of whom might be broadly described as pronounced anti-Zionists) and delivered my paper.

What happened?

I received a spontaneous round of applause for opening my remarks with a statement in Gaelic.

My address was then received in courteous silence and, as is customary, I dealt with some questions from the audience.

In the coffee break a number of individuals came up to me to say that not only did they appreciate my addressing an audience largely hostile to my Zionist outlook but that they had learned, from me, facts of which they had been completely ignorant hitherto.

And one conference participant was courageous enough to email me subsequently as follows:

Your inclusion in the proceedings added a necessary sense of balance to the arguments being presented.

I must commend you on speaking at such a conference because it appeared you were very much outnumbered in quantity of persons; though certainly not in terms of the substance and weight of arguments within the framework of international law.

I found your perspective on the Balfour Declaration with regards to it acknowledging Jews as a people entitled to a national home and the British mandate authorising settlements in the West Bank quite fascinating.

Also, I was intrigued and persuaded [my emphasis] by your argument of Israel acting as successor to the British Mandate as opposed to Jordanian ownership of the land comprising the West Bank.

In insisting on my right to attend the conference and address it, I now know that I took the right decision.

But what a pity that I could not exercise that right in the United Kingdom.

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