SFI Statement on Cancellation of Southampton Conference

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Sussex Friends of Israel are very pleased with the decision made by the University of Southampton to withdraw permission for the International Law and the State of Israel Conference to take place on its campus.

In taking a leading role organising a demonstration we did not, nor do not seek to stifle free speech. On the contrary, we sought only to exercise our freedom of speech and right to peaceful protest in denouncing the conference.

We were in regular communication with both the police and the University to assure them that we had no desire or intention to disrupt the conference or those attending. At no time did the police express any concern regarding our demonstration and were quite happy to facilitate our legal right.

We are aware however, that there were other groups who were planning to protest on a separate date and also those planning a counter-protest to ours.

While we understand the position of the University in basing their decision on Health and Safety, we fully reject any implication or suggestion that the demonstration being organised by us gave rise to concerns regarding public disorder. At no point was this ever raised by the police with us.

We would remind people that over that last number of weeks, the University has come under increasing pressure from politicians, community leaders, public opinion and funders, all seeking to have this conference moved. The reputation and good name of the University was clearly being damaged.