The University of Southampton has withdrawn permission for a controversial conference on Israel due to have taken place on campus next month – and has been greeted by a call for a judicial review.
Plans for the event, titled International Law and the State of Israel, were already on a knife-edge after attracting considerable criticism from Jewish groups and MPs, with communities and local government minister Eric Pickles describing it as “a one-sided diatribe”.
A spokesman for the university confirmed it had now decided to withdraw permission for the event but insisted this had “not been influenced by the content of the conference or any representations made to the university” but “purely on concerns about the safety of conference attendees, staff, students and the public”.
“After carrying out thorough risk assessments and consulting closely with the police, the university has concluded that due to high numbers of demonstrators expected to attend, risks to safety and public order at and near the conference venue have surpassed any practical mitigation the institution can put in place,” he added.
“The university has, however, indicated to the organisers that it is willing to work with them to find a venue suitable for a conference of this nature at a later date.”
In response to the decision, the conference organisers issued a statement saying that they plan to “launch legal efforts at the High Court”, with barristers acting for them filing “grounds for an urgent judicial review of the decision”. Over 6,300 people have also signed a petition to the university calling on it to “uphold free speech and allow the conference on Israel and international law to proceed”.