The decision of the University of Southampton to cancel a conference that was to have been held later this month under the auspices of its school of law amounts to a massive setback for academic freedom in this country (“Southampton cancels controversial Israel conference”, 2 April).
The university has cited safety and security concerns. But these have arisen only because interests opposed to the subject matter of the conference (the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state) threatened to demonstrate against and (to my certain knowledge) disrupt the proceedings.
As a proud Jew and a proud Zionist, I am appalled. As a patron of the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards, I am outraged. As someone who was to have presented a paper at the conference, I am horrified.
Academic freedom is indivisible. There is no subject that cannot be discussed in a university environment. Let us hope, therefore, that the university authorities at Southampton can be persuaded even now to undergo a change of heart.
Michael Gross professor of modern history
University of Buckingham
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