Exeter and the JLC co-host debate on the representation of Israel in UK academic discourse

2nd February 2016: The University of Exeter and the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) have co-hosted a special event to debate how Israel is represented in academic discussions across the UK.

The event, which took place on Monday, February 1 under the title of ‘The treatment of Israel in academic discourse at UK Universities’, featured academics, students from the University and representatives from the Jewish community debating both sides of the major topic.

This debate was designed to allow debates pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to occur whilst upholding the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech. This followed discussions between the JLC and the University of Exeter in the lead-up to last year’s academic conference on ‘Settler Colonialism in Palestine & Workshop on the Naqab Bedouin’, during which the University announced it would hold a supplementary event to provide an opportunity for further debate.

The event was divided into two sessions, each lead by one group who presented reasoned discussions around the subject. The counter group were then given an opportunity to respond, before the debate was opened up to the audience for discussion and comment.  The groups featured Dr Nadia Naser-Najjab, Professor Ilan Pappe and Malaka Mohammed Shwaikh (University of Exeter, Palestine Student Body), debating against Professor David Hirsh (Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London), Alan Johnson (Editor of Fathom and Senior Research Fellow at BICOM) and Barnaby Powell (Vice-President, University of Exeter Jewish Society).

The discussion was chaired by Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter.

Speaking after the event, Sir Steve said: “We were delighted to host this distinctive and positive debate, which proved to be engaging and thought-provoking for the speakers and audience alike. This proved to be an exciting opportunity to debate an important topic in a positive and open environment.

“It is imperative that universities provide an encouraging space for academic discourse, no matter how challenging the subject, and I am pleased that this debate proved so successful.”

Simon Johnson CEO of the JLC said: “This is an important step in facilitating a model for academic debates on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. Working with the University we have created a safe and open platform for debating this topic and this event was structured to give an opportunity to both sides to express their views. I hope that the success of this event will set the precedent for many similar events in the future.”