The University of Southampton will hold a three-day quasi-academic conference, “International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism” (April 17-19 2015). Billed as a “ground-breaking historical event,” the forum “concerns the legitimacy in International Law of the Jewish state of Israel” and questions the legality of the “foundation and protection of a state of such nature.”

The conference aims to lend academic legitimacy to the notion that the existence of a Jewish state, within any borders, is up for legal and moral debate. Participating speakers and panelists plan to “diagnose the legal position” of Israel to enable “scholarly debate and disagreement” on the legitimacy of Israel’s existence. Such events represent the antithesis of constructive academic dialogue and peaceful coexistence.

As shown below, the vast majority of the speakers listed on the program are virulent anti-Israel ideologues who demonize Israel using labels like “apartheid,” advocate for a “one state” framework that denies the right of the Jewish nation to self-determination, promote BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns targeting Israel, and advance legal attacks (“lawfare”) against Israel in international legal bodies. The involvement of a number of NGO officials and individuals affiliated with politically biased NGOs highlight the primary non-academic, ideological nature of the event.

Some of these NGOs receive direct and indirect funding from European governments, as well as from the New Israel Fund (NIF).

For NGO Monitor’s analysis of previous pseudo-academic and pseudo-legal forums, see:


Oren Ben-Dror

Conference organizer and Southampton University professor Ben-Dror is a vocal anti-Israel activist who supports academic boycotts of Israeli universities and is a signatory to a 2007 “One-State Declaration” advocating for the total rejection of the Jewish state. He has accused Israel of carrying out a “well-planned ethnic cleansing” in 1948, and maintains that apartheid is “central to the essence” of Israel since its inception. In a 2009 article, Ben-Dror characterized Israel a “murderous state” that deliberately provokes a “continuing cycle of violence” so that Israelis “can unite behind their inability to examine their apartheid mentality.” In the same article he defended Hamas as “legitimate opposition to the arrogant and self-righteous Zionist entity.”

Ilan Pappe

Ilan Pappe, is an academic at the University of Exeter and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. He is a supporter of BDS and violence against Israel, stating: “I support Hamas in its resistance against the Israeli occupation.”  Pappe’s article “Genocide in Gaza” refers to the “Palestinian resistance” and uses terms such as “imprisoning Gaza,” “massacres,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “genocide politics” to describe the actions of the Israeli government. In a 2014 lecture, Pappe claimed that a two-state framework is “just a tool where [Israel] maintains control over the [Palestinians].”

Nadim Rouhana

Nadim Rouhana , Professor of International Negotiation and Conflict Studies at Tufts University, is the founding director of Mada al-Carmel, an Israeli-Arab NGO involved in the “Haifa Declaration” (2007) which calls for a “change in the definition of the State of Israel from a Jewish state” and accuses Israel of “exploiting” the Holocaust “at the expense of the Palestinian people.” Rouhana opposes a two-state solution, stating that “recognition of Israel as a Jewish state” is “morally wrong.”  She has spoken during Israeli Apartheid Week.

Richard Falk

Richard Falk is an international law professor at Princeton University and former UN official who has been widely denounced for antisemitism. He is well-known for of 9/11 conspiracy theories accusing Israel, as well as for blaming the Boston terrorist attack on “the American global domination project” and “Tel Aviv.” Author of an article “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust” that compares Israel to the Nazis. As noted by the British government’s equality and non-discrimination team, Falk’s recent writings are “resonant of the longstanding anti-Semitic practice of blaming Jews (through the state of Israel by proxy) for all that is wrong in the world.”

George Bisharat

George Bisharat is a Palestinian activist, who has served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian Authority. He previously organized similar quasi-academic events at UC Hastings. He campaigns for boycotts of Israel, claiming “[i]f boycotting apartheid South Africa was appropriate, it is equally fair to boycott Israel on a similar record.” Bisharat promotes the Palestinian narrative, asserting the so-called “right of return” and other dubious allegations that include Nazi references, and talks of massacres and master plans.

Uri Davis

Uri Davis calls himself a Palestinian Hebrew, and labels the Israeli-Arab conflict “[a] classic apartheid construction…between a settler-colonial state and an indigenous population dispossessed by the colonial project.” Davis also claims that “[w]hat the wall today represents is an attempt by the government of the State of Israel to cap the expulsion – the ethnic cleansing – perpetrated in the course of the 1948-49 war with a Bantustan solution for the rest of the country.” Uri Davis is also involved with Miftah, a group which disseminates the “Palestinian narrative and discourse globally.”  Miftah has characterized Palestinian terrorists as “activists” and suicide bombings as “resistance”.

Eitan Bronstein Aparicio

Bronstein is the founder of the NGO Zochrot, which aims to “raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba.” Zochrot supports a “one state solution” or a “de-Zionized Palestine,” and refers to Israel as having an “ethnicized and racialized Zionist” system. Bronstein has stated: “When the refugees return, Jews will become a minority in the country. Israel as a Jewish state will change radically, and it will no longer be defined as such.” In a May 16, 2010 article, he claimed that if the Palestinians give up their “right of return,” Israelis, “will be sentenced to the shameful life of an eternal occupier, armed from the soles of my feet to the depths of my soul and always afraid, like all colonizers.” Participated as the “Holocaust Bodyguard”in a highly disturbing video was posted on YouTube, “The Holocaust’s Visit to Yad Vashem,” featuring radical activist Natali Cohen Vaxberg. In it, she visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and adopts the persona of the “Holocaust,” claiming to be “the best thing that ever happened” to the Jewish people. (See here for more on this highly offensive video.)

Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat is an assistant professor at George Mason University, vocal anti-Israel activist, and former legal campaigner for “US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation,” where she “helped seed BDS campaigns” and facilitate “lawfare” cases against two former Israeli officials in US federal courts. Her writings have accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” While a student at UC Berkeley she spearheaded a divestment campaign along with Students for Justice in Palestine. Erakat is also the U.S.-based Legal Advocacy Consultant for highly politicized Palestinian NGO BADIL and spoke at the Right of Return Conference at Boston University (April 6-7, 2013).

Sawsan Zaher

Sawsan Zaher is an attorney at Adalah, an NGO that attempts to portray Israel as racist as part of the Durban Strategy that it helped formulate. The group maintains a “Discriminatory Laws in Israel” database on its website, which deems laws promoting Zionism and the historic Jewish connection to Israel as discriminatory. Consistent with its political goal of eliminating Israel’s Jewish character, in 2007 Adalah drafted a “Democratic Constitution” that called for replacing the Jewish foundation of Israel with a “democratic, bilingual, and multicultural” framework. The group has also supported a 2008 “lawfarecase against Israeli officials. Zaher has stated that Israel’s alleged discriminatory laws constitute “apartheid.”

John Reynolds

John Reynolds is a professor at National University of Ireland Maynooth, and a former legal researcher for the NGO Al-Haq, a leader in the anti-Israel “lawfare” and BDS movement. Al-Haq regularly files lawsuits and submits politically motivated reports to international legal bodies. Reynolds spoke at Harvard to promote an Al-Haq case filed in Quebec against corporations involved in housing construction in the West Bank, and wrote about the “Al Haq v. UK” case against UK Secretaries of State for “failure to fulfill…obligations under international law with respect to Israel’s activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).” Reynolds authored a 2013 paper “Apartheid, International Law, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” and has defended resistance and rockets against Israel as a colonial power.

Lea Tsemel

Lea Tsemel is anti-Zionist activist and a founder of the Public Committee against Torture in Israel a group that circulates unverifiable allegations of Israeli torture, using them as the basis for campaigns in international forums and Israeli courts. Her writings level accusations against Israel, including “ethnic cleansing.” She has served on the International Advisory Council of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) program, funded by the NGO Diakonia.  The IHL program exploits and misrepresents international law and promotes an invented “right to resist” (meaning terrorism). Tsemel presented at the 2011 Cape Town Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a “peoples tribunal” that exploits a legal façade in order to implicate Israel of various war crimes. Tsemel has stated that Israel “took a cue from Nazi Germany –‘the same racism, the same hatred, the same ideology of super race.’”

Michael Kearney

Michael Kearney of the University of Sussex is a leading proponent of anti-Israel  “lawfare.” Kearney prepared the legal opinion, along with the NGOs Al-Haq and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), that provides the  legal justification for Palestinian Authority to pursue war crimes cases against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Kearney has lectured on Israeli “apartheid” and has written an article alleging Israeli “war crimes.”

Salman Abu-Sitta

Founder of the Palestine Land Society, which promotes the Palestinian narrative of the “Nakba” [“Catastrophe”] and accuses Israel of “racism,” “apartheid,” and “ethnic cleansing.” Abu Sitta spoke at the 2013 Right of Return Conference in the U.S., where he advocated for a return of all Palestinian refugees, which would result in the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Salman Abu Sitta has also defended Hamas rocket attacks, saying “they are throwing their home-made projectiles on their own land, at its occupiers, in a symbolic gesture to assert their right for their homes in the occupied land.”

Hatem Bazian

President of American Muslims for Palestine and co-founder of Students for Justice in Palestine, two U.S.-based groups that promote anti-Israel activism and have been accused of providing  platforms for antisemitism. American Muslims for Palestine also partners with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a leader of the BDS campaign, which views itself as the “Jewish wing” of the Palestinian solidarity movement and seeks to create “a wedge” within the Jewish community over support for Israel.  Bazian has made highly offensive statements, which include:

  • At a May 1999 conference organized by the American Muslim Alliance, Bazian stated: “In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews . . . and the stones will say, ‘Oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him!’”
  • Bazian protested the arrests of anti-Israel protesters at UC Berkeley, saying: “If you want to know where the pressure on the university [to prosecute the demonstrators] is coming from, look at the Jewish names on the school buildings.”
  • Spoke at a May 2002 “cultural assembly” at San Francisco’s George Washington High School, which was so offensive that it resulted in formal letters of apology from the school administration. The event  featured a student singing a rap song comparing Zionists to Nazis and other inflammatory activities.
  • In June 2004, Bazian spoke at a KindHearts Fundraising Dinner, entitled ‘Palestinians in agony!’ In 2006 the organization, also known as Islamic Association for Palestine, was shut down by the US government and became listed as a specially designated terrorist organization for being a HAMAS front.

Virginia Tilley

Contributing writer to the Electronic Intifada, a major online media outlet active in promoting antisemitism, extreme anti-Israel views, and propaganda. Tilley’s articles have included: “On the Academic Boycott of Israel” in which she states: “Israeli academic arguments are indeed too reminiscent of apartheid South Africa to escape the comparison… The entire Israeli state system — its laws, its policies, its ideology of Jewish statehood, the privileges that serve its Jewish-national society — is implicated in a grand demographic strategy to exclude, imprison, and subjugate some 50 percent of the state’s own territorial population solely on the basis of their ethnic identity. This distinguishes Israel from other states behaving badly by casting it into the particular moral abyss of an apartheid state.”

Valentina Azarova

Her Twitter bio describes her affiliations with radical anti-Israel groups, including “Research Fellow, Institute of Law, BZU. Former: Associate, MATTIN Group; Legal Adviser, Al-Haq.” The MATTIN Group aims “to coax Israel’s key trading partners (the EC, the US and EFTA) into reversing their de facto acceptance of Israel’s administrative annexation of the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories, establishing separate regimes for trading with Palestinian exporters, and overcoming Israel’s refusal to permit direct Palestinian agricultural exports.” Azarova spoke at the United Nations Roundtable on Legal Aspects of the Question of Palestine Convened by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (Geneva, April 24-25, 2014), where she promoted BDS against Israel and the Palestinian “right of return,” meaning the elimination of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people

Click here for further analysis of the scheduled speakers at the University of Southampton event (external link)