UK Universities cancel talks by co-author of UN report accusing Israeli of apartheid regime, over security concerns

Chloe Farand
Former UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories Richard Falk: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

A pair of British universities have cancelled talks by the co-author of UN report which concluded that Israel is “an apartheid state, because of security concerns.

International law professor Richard Falk had been due to speak at Middlesex University London and the University of East London.

But Middlesex cancelled this week's event because of “safety concerns” while East London said procedures, including security paperwork, “had not been adequately followed”.

Professor Falk,a former United Nations (UN) special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories, is known to be critical of Israel and the US.

He recently co-authored a United Nations report which has found that “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people”.

Israel and its allies condemned the analysis which found that Palestinians are subjected to a “strategic fragmentation” that allows Israel to impose “racial domination” with different sets of laws for different peoples.

Professor Falk was faced with protests and “disruptions” during an event hosted by the London School of Economics (LSE) earlier this week, when antisemitic comments were reportedly made by members in the audience

Afterwards, the university's Israel Society said it was “appalled by the treatment of Jewish students”.

An LSE spokesman said it was investigating following complaints of antisemitic comments made during the talk.

They added: "As with all public events, LSE has taken steps to protect free speech within the law and foster an open dialogue. Regrettably, there were a number of disruptions during the event which were dealt with by the security personnel in attendance."

But it led to Professor Falk's speeches being cancelled at the other universities.

A University of East London spokesman said: “We host many events on campus, with a wide range of speakers and strongly believe that universities should be a place of debate and free speech. We would consider welcoming Professor Falk to our campus on another occasion if the appropriate policies and procedures were followed.

In an interview with the Middle East Eye website, Mr Falk said: “As far as I can tell, there is a growing kind of feeling that the educational establishment in Britain, specifically in England, has been kind of intimidated in dealing with those who are seen as critics of Israel.”

He added the cancellations of the university events showed the “intensification” of a trend limiting academic freedom on university campuses and that by preventing students from being exposed to controversial issues, it would limit their training in becoming engaged citizens.

Writing in The Nation, Mr Falk defended the UN report as a basis for dialogue towards a peaceful political solution between Israel and Palestine.

"For government officials and others to dismiss our report as a biased polemic is irresponsible, with respect both to the authority of the UN and to international law. I mention this personal experience only to note that it falls into a longstanding pattern of rebuttal that prefers to smear rather than engage in reasoned debate about important issues of law and justice," he said.

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