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Phone hacking lawyer could ban Southampton student trainees if ‘anti-Semitic’ conference goes ahead

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Mark Lewis brings wannabe lawyers into a row that has nothing to do with them

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Well-known phonehacking solicitor Mark Lewis has indicated that he may avoid giving training contracts to Southampton University students amid a row about a controversial conference being hosted by the Russell Group institution’s law school.

The conference — entitled ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’ — will question the legal and moral right of Israel to exist when it takes place next month.

Over 5,000 people have signed a petition calling on the university to cancel the conference, but Lewis — who is a partner at London media law firm Seddons — has gone a step further, warning that he “would not look so favourably” on applications from Southampton students if the event goes ahead.

Lewis first alluded to this approach — which seems rather unfair on Southampton-educated wannabe lawyers — on Twitter last week.

Then yesterday the lawyer, who represented the family of murdered Surrey teenager Milly Dowler during the hacking scandal, told The Telegraph:

“This is a one-sided conference, not a debate and I would want to raise serious questions about what students at this university are being taught and what the university believes.

“If Southampton allows teaching which does not present both sides of a case it would raise doubts in my mind about the suitability of a candidate from its School of Law. I would not look so favourably on those CVs.”

When contacted by Legal Cheek today, Seddons said Lewis’ views did not represent those of the firm and that Southampton University students would not be treated differently to any other applicants. A spokesperson for the firm commented:

“The recent comments by one of our partners, Mark Lewis, reflect only Mark’s personal views with regards this particular matter, and are in no way representative of the views, position or policies of the firm.”

82 Comments

NCTrainee

I don’t understand how he reaches the conclusion that Southampton students will be taught poorly. The conference will likely mainly include academics specialising in international law. How the teaching of tort, contract or land law will suffer because some international lawyers at the university have controversial views is confusing.

However, this is all irrelevant. It’s one comment by one man and will probably never have any effect on anyone.

As always….
Irrelevant story detracts from important issues which triggered the story.

(22)(3)

Tif

Wouldn’t this be in breach of Solicitors Regulation Authority rules for discrimination on the basis of political views (and arguably race too)? I would like to see him reported

(8)(2)

Stephen

For the wider context of this see here.

https://bookburnersrus.wordpress.com

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Very stupid reply from a man who earns a living putting together strong arguments.

To actually think a Law School would not teach their students both sides of every case is ludicrous and quite frankly very dumb.

(22)(6)

Gagarin's boot

Debating a highly contentious current issue is deemed …”anti-semitic”? Who is this pretentious douchebag?

(42)(7)

oxford_lawyer

Well the conference is to debate if the state of Israel has a legal and moral right to exist that’s not exactly topical the answer to both is yes and was determined post Second World War what is topical would be the extent of said state and wether it should co-exist with Palestine and the form of that state not whether Israel has a right to exist at all and that’s if you are talking about the modern state of Israel of course you could talk about the right of Israel to exist going back to the Romans more than 2000 years ago! So not exactly topical

(14)(26)

Corky Butchek

Go back to Oxford mate, you’re drunk.

(21)(11)

Anonymous

And learn how to use a full stop!

(19)(5)

Anonymous

Yes, because everything studied at university is completely topical. No one ever studies things from 2,000 years ago.

(1)(1)

Not Amused

The universities must be a haven for free speech and freedom of thought. Threats to that made by any one group must be ignored – quite regardless of which group or interest it may be who are complaining. Seddons should have condemned these comments not merely distanced themselves from them.

(24)(6)

Simon Myerson

The Jewish kids at Southampton aren’t seeing that way alas. A conference to debate peace and what should be done is one thing. A conference to debate whether a nation has a ‘right’ to exist is another thing entirely. Apart from one speaker (the token Zionist), both the panel and the topics are stacked.

This truly isn’t ‘freedom of expression’. It’s a way to parade prejudice at the expense of a small group. Jews are used to being attacked (I reckon it happens to me, via abuse and shouting about twice a year, and in a physical form about every other year). But to invite the issue onto campus and thereby expose the tiny number of Jews at Southampton to risk is beyond acceptable.

And yes, I know the conference is ‘only’ about Israel’s right to exist. But the people currently on a killing spree in Europe and aiming for the UK set out to kill Jews, not Zionists. And, ironically, the need for a place that Jews can be confident will be a refuge for them when Europe turns nasty is more apparent now than it has been for 70 years. Which is why, overwhelmingly, the UK’s Jews identify with Israel (something over 90%).

Incidentally, the conference has attracted the support of anti-Semites like Gilad Atzmon, whose thesis is that Jews are to blame for the fact they are hated. That – on its own – should be enough to make a Russell Group University think harder than Southampton are doing about whether this is a respectable academic debate, or a neat little cover for regurgitation of the oldest hatred.

(31)(17)

Not Amused

Sorry Simon, no. Either we support free speech or we don’t.

That is leaving aside the fact that threatening a bunch of kids is pretty contemptible. We don’t have thought crime in this country. We definitely don’t have a blanket thought crime called ‘your university once did something I don’t like’.

(16)(10)

Theodore Herzl

Simon, two points.

The creation of the State of Israel involved severe breaches of international law and basic human rights – both of which continue to the present day. Any attempt to draw these facts to a wider audience is very much welcome. Having read the programme, there is nothing to suggest at this point that any of the speakers will call for the State of Israel to be dissolved outright. Most commentators simply want Israel to acknowledge the great crimes of its foundation, provide its own Arab citizens with equality and civil rights, and allow the Palestinians their own state.

Using the persecution of the Jews to excuse the State of Israel from criticism is extraordinarily dangerous. The Holocaust stands as the greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man. People instinctively shie away from any criticism of a Jewish state, or even individual Jews, for fear of being associated with the same barbarity. However, if Israel continues to abuse basic human rights and international law, I genuinely fear that people’s instinctive generosity towards Jews and the Jewish state will falter, and the memory of the greatest crime of human history will become tainted by the far lesser crimes of its victims.

As a postscript, I know several people who have been attacked for being non-white in immigrant-dominated areas. Hatred exists across all classes and races; the long persecution of the Jews stands as sorry example.

(16)(8)

Lawst Cause

To be fair, that’s bollocks. All rights are subject to limits where they conflict with other rights. It’s not an all or nothing situation.

(5)(4)

NCTrainee

Not Amused, I don’t think anyone is saying that it MUST be stopped. We are perfectly entitled to criticise the conference, to say that Southampton should really think twice about this. As long as we don’t disrupt it I think free speech is protected and respected.
Free speech isn’t a get out of jail free card: you can still be criticised for expressing certain opinions, even if your right to express them is respected.

Recently a debate about whether abortion has affected society’s culture/ethics was scheduled by a pro-life group in Oxford. The extremist left students saw that it was shut down because they felt that anything questioning abortion was disgusting, under any and all circumstances. They screamed, shouted, threatened physical abuse, started petitions. I loathed them for it. It appalled me. But I think it would have been acceptable for them to make their points, criticise the debate in the student press, and leave it at that. That’s what we are doing here. It is a loaded debate, it is arguably racist, and it can be criticised.

One of the most significant rationales for free speech is for the open forum of ideas, where those which are weak die. If we cannot criticise speech the rationale disappears. If anyone started protesting or causing any trouble at the protest I would condemn them, but I don’t think that’s what is being suggested in these comments. (I of course disagree with the lawyer featured in this article).

(1)(1)

Not Amused

“The extremist left students saw that it was shut down because they felt that anything questioning abortion was disgusting, under any and all circumstances. They screamed, shouted, threatened physical abuse, started petitions. I loathed them for it. It appalled me. But I think it would have been acceptable for them to make their points, criticise the debate in the student press, and leave it at that. That’s what we are doing here”

Respectfully I disagree. Mark Lewis is threatening every single student at Southampton University.

For me that is exactly the same as the lefty demonstrators in your example. His behaviour is unacceptable and I am looking to people to condemn it, as I have.

(3)(1)

Simon Myerson

Sorry, I know you’re wedded to ‘Zionist militias’ but it’s nonsense. There were 2 small groups outside the main army. They certainly had a ‘campaign’, but it wasn’t why the State was formed. You ignore entirely the service to the allies which was freely given by the mainstream Jewish community in the Mandated territory. That simply isn’t compatible with terrorism, which was manifested by small groups on both sides.

Like many former colonial rebels, the leaders of those groups later shifted towards the centre (not enough in my view) and led the nation. Shamir, for example, is chiefly notable for not reacting to the bombing of Tel Aviv during the first Gulf War. Hardly in tune with his earlier persona, but that’s growing up for you.

The end result of the Arab’s invasion of Israel in 1948 – in a vain effort to ignore what the UN had just voted for – was that there was a population transfer. Precisely as there was in Cyprus, India and Malaya – in fact just about anywhere where the British left the colonies. That is how matters were resolved. To label it as forcing people to leave (whilst not acknowledging the Jewish experience) is nonsense. There was almost certainly a degree of compulsion in some cases and – despite the initial views of revisionist historians (now recanted) – almost certainly not a policy. That’s nuance – a quality your analysis patently lacks (and why, we ask ourselves).

It’s not damaging to see anti-Semitism where the organiser of the conference is accused of that by supporters of the Palestinian cause – as this man has been. My experience is, I suspect, a little different to yours. I don’t think you ought to assume that when I worry about it I am simply trying to use persecution of my race as a political point. In fact, I am concerned that Jew hatred is gaining currency. I know that’s an inconvenient conclusion for you, but my assessment is likely to be a great deal better than yours. For example, Jews are 4 times more likely than Muslims to be the subject of a race based attack, and goodness knows how many times more likely than white people. If that doesn’t concern you, you will have to explain why.

To pretend that this rise in hatred isn’t connected to Israel is insane. Jews of 3 European countries have recently suffered fatal attacks. In each case Jews (not Zionists) were targeted and ‘Zionists’ were the excuse. Don’t make excuses or feel comfortable with people who promote an agenda that encourages the identification of Israel with evil, without remotely acknowledging the evil of others or the context for their complaints.

And don’t defend their ‘freedom of speech’ to the people who will pay the price for it.

(11)(6)

Theodore Herzl

Simon,

The reason I mention the militias is because they were absolutely central to the founding of Israel, provided much of the leadership in the postwar years, and carried out most of the atrocities leading to the Palestinian exodus. If you are willing to excuse the militias on the grounds that many members became more moderate once in government, you must realise that Hamas, for all their anti-Semitic bluster, would almost certainly follow the same path as Lehi and Irgun if they were allowed to contribute to a genuine democratic process.

Shamir didn’t need to react to the bombing of Tel Aviv on a simple calculation – America and others were already obliterating Iraq, so why bother? Are we supposed to be thankful that a head of state had the prudence and self-regard to not use their (wholly undeclared) nuclear arsenal on an already crippled country?

‘Population transfer’? A euphemism as hard on the ears as ‘collateral damage’. Perhaps the 700,000 people forced out had always dreamed of a shiftless life in refugee camps.

(3)(1)

Not Amused

Simon, I said I would stay quiet and I’m nothing if not a hypocrite. I know you are genuinely concerned for Jews in the UK. I am genuinely concerned for Jews in the UK. But I can see from how you are writing that you might have been buying in to quite a lot of over playing of the dangers of violence against Jews in the UK.

That is in no way to downplay what does occur. But if I see you being genuinely afraid and if I have reason to suggest that your fears are unfounded then I feel I have a moral duty to allay your fears.

Please listen to the More or Less podcast on the subject (it’s radio 4 Simon it’s very respectable – I promise you). You can find it here – use Ctrl-F to search for anti http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/moreorless/all

I genuinely hope it makes you feel better about overall risks. But I know that is hard if you have experienced specific instances yourself. I was burgled and that profoundly influenced me. All I can say is please listen to the actual data and please don’t live needlessly in fear.

(2)(1)

Jayceeme

My daughter has an offer from Southampton which she will not be taking up because she is afraid. An eminent Lecturer is not attending the conference because he is afraid. This has nothing whatsoever to do with free speech how could a one sided hatefest have anything to do with free speech. There is nobody opposing the motion.

(3)(4)

Rupert Murdoch

Spare me the sob story. And yes, Israel should take responsibility for its actions. Just as Palestinians should for the actions of their military.
The problem with the Israeli discourse is that they can never be to blame for anything because bad shit happened 60 years ago. Well, too bad, get over it and start facing the facts about the inhuman treatment of Palestinians.

(11)(5)

Simon Myerson

Actually, the creation of the Israeli state involved nothing of the kind. Legally, this is an attempt to suggest that rights, as defined today, existed in 1948, when they didn’t.

Nor is anyone talking about exempting Israel from criticism. It is typical of the type of argument advanced by ‘Theodore Herzl’ (and, oh, how amusing that name just seem to the child who adopted it) that it utilises that untruth. We should be able to distinguish between criticism and different treatment. Israel is the only state whose existence is being debated. That ought to concern people, because it begs the question ‘why’. I’m afraid that if you dodge that question you need to explain why, because the obvious answer is that Israel is a Jewish state.

Nor, as ‘Rupert Murdoch’ (and how amusing that name must seem to the child who adopted it) does anyone assert Israel can never be to blame. That attitude lacks all nuance and it ignores a very substantial body of Israeli opinion and diaspora Jewish opinion, which frequently criticises Israel. What is lacking is an equivalent body on the Arab or Palestinian side – you will search a long time to see, for example a denunciation of rockets and a call for Hamas to reject the parts of its Charter which are nakedly anti-Semitic (look it up).

This conference promotes precisely the type of attitude demonstrated by the anonymous commentators above: it isn’t debate but demonisation. Is that where you want to go? Freedom of speech has never been absolute – academic conferences supported by anti-Semites and aimed at one nation/race isn’t a poster child for freedom, but for hatred.

(9)(5)

Not Amused

Simon, I don’t think it is true to make the logical steps you make. You say ‘legitimacy of other states is not debated’ + ‘Israel is jewish state’ = ‘this debate is anti-Semitic and should not occur’.

You only need one of either the first 2 to be wrong for your calculation to fail. Human beings do today debate the existence or legitimacy of other states: see debate over Palestine, Belgium, the EU, South Sudan and an independent Kurdish state. Is Israel Jewish? Shlomo Sand seems to question that so at the least it is open debate. It certainly has a good many non-Jewish citizens.

So both parts of your initial logic equation are potentially faulty.

But let us look also at the conclusion. You say it “isn’t a poster child for freedom, but for hatred.” That is by no means clear. Moreover if I choose, as a free man, to hate France, am I breaking the law? If Nauru does something with its foreign policy with which I disagree, if I condemn it do I hate Nauru? The line as you know is a lot finer than that.

We developed incitement to racial hatred laws for very specific reasons. They should not be interpreted so liberally as to block and stifle debate. We need debate, somebody said that undebated ideas will fester and I think that is a good analogy.

Now I may be wrong on all of this, and I would only discuss it with you because I know this topic incites a lot of emotion, but I trust you to be rational. Assuming I am completely wrong on everything I have written above – would you not still condemn Mark Lewis’ comments?

It seems to me there are a lot of scared kids at Southampton Uni right now, who haven’t got the slightest thing to do with this issue. What they need is to stop being scared and I think condemning Mark, not for his feelings, but for his threats, is a good start.

(3)(3)

Theodore Herzl

Simon,

The State of Israel was founded on the forced expulsion of 700,000 Palestinian civilians. There simply would not have been room for the people making Aliyah if their predecessors had not been forced to leave their homes by the Lehi and Irgun. The State of Israel continues to visit gross human rights abuses upon its own Arab minorities, upon the citizens of the Occupied Territories, and upon any of its own citizens who refuse to serve in the army. This is why the State of Israel comes in for continued criticism – not because of any latent anti-semitism, but because it continues to act in a way which would be simply intolerable were it not a strategically vital and Jewish state.

I use a pseudonym to comment on matters concerning Israel because to do so otherwise invites considerable professional risk. And that ought to concern you as much as it concerns me.

(7)(5)

Simon Myerson

There isn’t a debate about the legitimacy of those States mentioned by Not Amused. Belgium, for example, debates its own existence – that’s fine. But a conference run for non-Belgians to debate whether it should exist is a different issue.

Israel certainly has non-Jewish citizens, and there are issues with how they are treated (it is both wholly true and pretty irrelevant to say that Arabs in Israel are treated better than Arabs anywhere else, unless they belong to the ruling clan). But that is a matter of internal policies – campaign by all means, but if you are making the leap from criticism to ‘abolish’ you do need to ask why. As I say, people would rather contort themselves than answer that question.

I don’t need to condemn Mark Lewis to have by perspective taken seriously. As I said above (before I read your response) I wouldn’t do it in my Chambers. But hey – those who support this conference BELIEVE in boycotts. So presumably they would say Lewis is able to adopt the same strategy. It’s not about protecting the innocent (they say) but about pressuring the guilty. I’m not going to be wasting time thinking about why sauce for the gander is wrong and the University permits that sort of campaigning so it can’t complain just because its receiving it, rather than dishing it out.

Rupe my old hider behind anonymity. I don’t know where you get your history from but it’s nonsense. Israel was founded before anyone left. The country found room for over 1.5m people expelled from Arab lands (not that I hear the hypocrites campaigning for compensation for Palestinians ever mention the vast wealth confiscated from the Jews in the same position). That was’t because they went into Arab homes. It was because Israel was committed to the proposition that we don’t ever again leave Jews with nowhere to go.

Equally, refusal to serve in the army isn’t an issue. You can do national service in other ways. I agree that Arabs citizens are discriminated against but you don’t define ‘gross’ – you can’t be comparing it to Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Dubai. Kuwait, Qatar etc – so presumably you’re thinking about immigrants in the UK. It’s meaningless. Those in the occupied territories are certainly discriminated against and they need and deserve a State. However, they are more discriminated against by Hamas than by Israel – which is why Hamas won’t hold elections. It’s all comparative isn’t it?

Your risk is nugatory unless you are really prepared to make allegations about a Jewish conspiracy, which would say it all. On the other hand, for signing a letter to the Sunday Times in 2005, suggesting that the Goldstone Committee should not include a member who had a pre-declared position on the subject in hand, I was made the subject of a meeting in Bradford called to boycott me, and another member of my Chambers was the subject of withdrawn work. I look forward to your published accounts of equivalent discrimination, using your real name. Otherwise, I’d not say anything else about it.

(7)(2)

Not Amused

“But a conference run for non-Belgians to debate whether it should exist is a different issue”

This is where we disagree. But I see this is a deeply contentious issue. I see all sorts of things which from my ivory tower I do not usually see. I, for the first time, join Concerned Tutor, I think I shall remain silent.

But Simon, through it all please know that for what it is worth that I ‘support’ this conference for principled reasons of freedom of speech and freedom of intellectual thought. I do not believe in boycotts, as I am sure you have grasped.

When issues become polarised there is always a silent majority. We lie between the warring parties and I think I represent that phenomena – I’m certainly no one’s enemy. I do not want freedom of thought to be a victim in this conflict and I am glad you disagree with Mark Lewis.

(4)(4)

Theodore Herzl

Simon,

I can cite several recent examples of international law distinguishing de facto existence from de jure legitimacy (Kosovo, Crimea, South Sudan). I would suggest that any state founded upon mass displacement and violations of international law will necessarily suffer some questions over its legitimacy. Even so, the great majority of commentators simply call for the Israeli government to obey its obligations under international law. There is nothing to suggest that the speakers in the conference would do anything otherwise.

The State of Israel was established in the midst of a campaign of violence by Zionist militias which had been going on for decades. The Irgun had been operating in the British Mandate since 1929. Around 200,000 Palestinians had already left by the time of the Declaration of Independence, with the remainder following shortly afterwards. I am touched by the idea that the Irgun and the Lehi were concerned with the “the proposition that we don’t ever again leave Jews with nowhere to go” – would this justify acts like Deir Yassin?

Refusal to serve in the Israeli Army clearly is an issue for the children who are drafted each year and choose to go to jail rather than comply. It is worth remembering that only a handful of conscientious objectors are granted an exemption – the majority must decide whether to serve or be imprisoned.

(5)(3)

Simon Myerson

The history is just cobblers. The State of Israel was established after the UN voted for it. Which is why the comparisons with Kosovo et al are so inapposite.

There is everything to suggest that the speakers at this Conference would not merely criticise. The organiser has expressly called Gilad Atzmon’s holocaust denial a ‘deep and powerful connection’ with the question of why Jews are hated. Atzmon denies any difference between Jews and Zionists. That is anti-Semitism and these chaps are not even trying to distinguish themselves from it. A bit of research is all that’s required…

Deir Yassin was a massacre in a war. It’s not justifiable and Israel has never tried to justify it. But to give it singularity is both biased and wall-eyed. Within weeks, the civilians of the Etzion block were also massacred. That’s inexcusable as well. But you don’t found a theory of legitimacy on one act, unless you’ve already made your mind up and are casting around for reasons – in which case your argument isn’t worth anything.

You’re wrong about objection. Those who go to prison refuse to serve in any capacity, including the civilian. That’s not a stance on the military – it’s a stance on whether you are prepared to do what other citizens do. Most countries react in that way.

What’s fascinating is that you use these relatively piffling issues to support a conference which is not debating any of them, but asking whether 5m people have a right to exist in sovereignty. You seem unable to see the disconnect. As I said earlier – most people in your position will do anything to dodge the issue of why this disconnect only occurs in connection with a Jewish State. Want to take a shot at that?

(6)(4)

Theodore Herzl

The state of Israel was established after the UN had voted for partition, but its establishment was intimately linked to a longstanding campaign of violence on the part of Zionist militias. This connection reached the very top – the sixth and seventh Prime Ministers of Israel were serving members of Lehi and Irgun! You are right regarding Deir Yassin, and it is unquestionably the case that the human capacity to do evil was displayed on all sides. However, the end result of the conflict was that 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes, and the State of Israel was established upon their patrimony. Its borders were drawn with little regard for those set out by the UN. Today, the State of Israel is a rich, powerful, and notionally democratic state; it should be acting as a shining example for the rest of the charnel house which is the Middle East. Instead, it re-elects Netanyahu.

I’m afraid your assertions about conscription are simply not correct. A person who is drafted will appear before a military tribunal. They may plead a conscientious objection to military service, but the panel are under no obligation to accept it. As I mentioned earlier, few exemptions are granted, and many conscientious objectors end up imprisoned.

The most damaging aspect of debates like this is the tendency to see anti-Semitism where it simply does not exist. It is quite demonstrably the case that the State of Israel is committing serious breaches of international law, and that the ethnicity of its citizens often prevents a mature discussion of the issues from taking place.

If the academics at this conference seek to bring these issues to a greater attention, all to the good. If they wish to go further, and call for the disestablishment of the State of Israel, I would profoundly disagree with them, but I would respect the freedom granted to all academics to discuss controversial issues without fear or favour.

(4)(3)

Annie

Simon,

Not sure there is much of a link between British Jewish students at a British university and a foreign country in the Middle East.

It is important for everyone to try to be emotionally detached.

A British Jewish student should not see a debate on Israel as an attack on them. They are British, their parents are probably British, their grandparents might have been British, some of them may originate from continental Europe. They are not responsible for what a State in the Middle East does. They should not feel like they have to defend that State, they should not think that when that State is criticised it is a criticism of their race or religion. They have absolutely no link to that State.

It would be like saying Muslims would be offended by criticism of Pakistan. No. Nation States and race/religion have (or should have) no link.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Anti-Israel is not anti-Semitism. Very dangerous conflation to make, and not one that the millions of diasporic Jews in the world appreciate. Don’t generalize people’s beliefs.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Read the actual conference info, and stop the boring pathetic humiliating ‘anti-semi

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Cont’d – big thumbs! –

… ‘anti-semitism’ distraction from the reality of brutal bigoted racist colonial expansion.

Zionism is truly the new Nazism.

(0)(0)

Theodore Herzl

Afraid of what?

(0)(0)

Concerned Tutor

The amount of otherwise, apparently, intelligent people who completely lose their heads when someone mentions the “I” word never ceases to amaze me…

(19)(1)

Baffled

In what way? By defending it or by criticising it?

(1)(1)

Concerned Tutor

Just by doing stupid things, like this fellow threatening law students

(6)(1)

Baffled

Interesting perspective he seems to be taking – tarring all UoS graduates based on an assumption about a conference which he seems to think should be dismissed because assumptions about Israel?

Curious position to take.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

I would not want to work for someone whose judgment is this clouded. This will do his firm’s application volume wonders, I’m sure.

(10)(1)

The Wolf

While I agree that I wouldn’t particularly like to work for someone who appears to be using their position as an employer to stifle free speech (and free speech is important whether we agree with it or not) I wonder what fairytale land you’re living in where law students are so pampered for choice visa vis post graduate employment that they can afford to let their misgivings and views of the employer deter them from applying to any particular position?

(3)(0)

Juan Pertayta

Why are university lecturers and students so childish? This sort of conference is all just “look at us, we’re so radical!”.

I was waiting for someone on here to defend this bollocks as “provocative” or “challenging”. But I see on the university’s website they say that, “those who chose to abstain, however, cannot derail the legitimate, if challenging, academic discussion the conference will inspire” and that the conference will be “…the first of its kind and constitutes a ground-breaking historical event … it is unique because it concerns the legitimacy in international law of the Jewish State of Israel.”

So no need to post any euphemisms or sophistry in support of this nonsense. The toddlers at the Solent Nursery are doing a fine job themselves.

Grow up FFS.

(7)(8)

Not Amused

Those seeking to debate the topic of the conference are silly for two reasons: first, it hasn’t happened yet so we do not know what will be said, and secondly, universities exist in order to promote learning and learning requires freedom of speech and freedom of thought.

The real focus is, and should be, on the actions of a man who is attempting to use the power (or perceived power) at his disposal to threaten ans bully hundreds of innocent kids. That is what is despicable here – and no one has tried to defend that, and quite rightly so.

(6)(1)

Rupert Murdoch

Weird. How is this conference anti-semitic? It’s meant to be a discussion where multiple points of view are heard. Why can’t anyone even dare to ask a question about Israel without being branded as a racist etc. ? So sick of that attitude.
It is so counter-productive when people feel scared to talk about a subject for fear of being branded as ‘bad’. When you stifle debate the subject does not go away, it simply becomes toxic. Eventually other, often less rational, people who don’t care about being labelled negatively take up the issues, though usually then one has irrational outpourings rather than a sensible debate.
In short – dear sanctimonious lawyer, please stop undermining democracy by preventing a discussion between people about a subject that clearly should not be ‘out of bounds’.

(8)(4)

Anonymous

As a matter of principle, you have to look at the substance of the discussion being proposed and/or the way it is framed. Freedom of expression is not a magic get-out. What if the conference were discussing whether people with dark skin have lower intelligence than others or whether women ‘deserve’ to have the same jobs as men.

The least that can be said regarding this conference in particular is that questioning a state’s “legitimacy” is unusual. Though it does seem to be a line of questioning quite regularly employed in discussion on Israel in particular.

(4)(3)

Not Amused

Freedom of speech means allowing people to have conferences about stupid things.

I would equally support someone’s right to have a conference about the two topics you raise. I think that conference would be a stupid conference and personally I would think less of those who supported the notion. But (and this is the most important point) I wouldn’t threaten some form of collective punishment for anyone who attends the university which acted as the venue.

(3)(2)

Crouton

Exactly. Freedom of speech is rather self-explanatory. You either believe in it, or you don’t and instead live in a world of prudishness and fear, terrified you might say something that upsets someone – or more likely extol hatred for any someone dares to say something you don’t agree with, e.g. the pro-Israel lobby that says that any criticism = a crime. Well, welcome to 1984.

Amazing to think it is lawyers who are discussing this, i.e. people whose very professions are based on the right to openly discuss any issue in court and the belief that arguments and evidence should rule.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

No Southampton students will be receiving a pupillage interview at this Top 30 Chambers!

(2)(6)

Anonymous

But, let’s be honest, they weren’t going to anyway.

It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does, how otherwise liberal Jews become more conservative than the American Right when anyone dares question the behavior of that great Sacred Cow, Israel. The situations complicated but debating the errors committed by the Israeli government and military over many decades is hardly “anti-Semitic” anymore than criticizing the behavior of terrorists in Palestine, Gaza etc… is “Islamaphobic”.

(5)(7)

Innocent Undergrad

Can I state the obvious here in case anyone has forgotten their time at university…there is a massive gap between the highfalutin flummery that the academics teach and research on, and what the undergrads learn.

Someone with a Southampton LLB will spend a lot more time doing contract and equity than on the middle east (shock horror?).

As a student at a ‘critical law school’ you hear a ton of stuff about racial this and equality that from the wise elders of the college, but study or soak up very little.

That said, agree with Simon, it must be very distressing as a Jewish student to go to a university that believes your home is ‘illegitimate’, but employers shouldn’t take out the academics’ wrongdoing on the students.

(6)(0)

Simon Myerson

For what it’s worth – I would not apply any different test to students from Southampton. If, on the other hand, they bought into this particular pile of manure, I would probably say that they lack the necessary critical skills to succeed in my Chambers.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

But surely they would be able to help you with the Mau Mau litigation – don’t a lot of the same issues arise re treatment of Palestinians?

(5)(2)

Stephen

Lewis and Simon Myerson are well known Hasbarafiosi trolls. Lewis is closely associated with a campaign, just getting into gear, to restrict and shrink civil liberties in this country. This Southampton thing has to be seen in the context of that. Lewis is closely associated with a group of far right wing Zionists that, in tandem with the MP for Bury South, seek to extend the Public Order Act to criminalise peaceful demonstrations where the matter in hand is the marketing of goods from illegal Israeli settlements.

In other words, Lewis has a lot of form and is gathering more by the day.

(4)(8)

Not Amused

Simon Myerson may be many things. He is probably not a good many of the things I have called him on occasion. But I don’t think it helps to demonise and invent conspiracies.

Simon obviously has a genuine conviction on this subject. Mark presumably must as well. I condemn Mark, not for his beliefs, but for threatening kids. Simon hasn’t done anything like that and I don’t see any connection between them.

Often when topics are extremely emotive it is better to try to avoid the contentious issues and step back. That is why I advise that we ignore the topic of the conference. We should only judge people by their actions and currently the one behaving badly here is Mark. I express no view on the topic, the question is broader than that:

Should universities be free to debate contentious issues? I answer yes and I say that if the universities can’t do it then where the hell else can?

There were periods of time when Christians were burning each other alive over doctrinal arguments. Even then we had free speech inside Oxford and Cambridge on the topic. We must have free speech. We must be able to debate ideas. Ideas are not evil, they are not to be condemned for merely being thought. They may very well be wrong, but that is a personal question for an individual – it is not for anyone to control ideas or to prevent debate.

(4)(0)

Stephen

Accepted. Lewis and Simon are two different things, even if both things are equally unedifying. They should not have been mentioned in the same paragraph.

(2)(0)

Simon Myerson

What an interesting allegation about me – especially given my public criticism of the Israeli government. Would you care to tell us your real name “Stephen’? I ask because you sound remarkably like the group of solicitors and barristers from Bradford who have attempted to boycott me and harm my family for the ‘crime’ of being a Zionist. Many of them use aliases on the internet as well. It’s just that your complaints about the ‘restriction of liberty’ sounds remarkably like that type of hypocrisy.

Do feel free to carry on defaming us in anonymous comments. It allows the reader to judge exactly how prepared you are to stand behind your allegations, and assess your confidence in their truth and honesty.

PS: if you should get the impression that I’m not very impressed with you, that would be right.

(8)(0)

Stephen

I am not a solicitor in Bradford or anywhere else.

I am not interested in impressing you.

Troll was unfair and inaccurate in your case. I withdraw it.

In Lewis’ case it stays.

(3)(2)

Rhys ap Evans

Why won’t anybody debate the existence of a bleedin independent Tom Jones Wales with me?!

(3)(0)

Paul Corrick

“This is a one-sided conference, not a debate and I would want to raise serious questions about what students at this university are being taught and what the university believes.” Free speech is a precious British tradition which most of us would do everything to defend. But true free speech includes hearing different viewpoints.Every single panel on this hate fest is stuffed full of low grade academics and self described activists drawn from near and far but from a single political direction.

They are people like Dr Ghada Karmi who tours this country’s universities whipping up hatred of Israel. She was at Cambridge the other week arguing that Israel is a “rogue state”. She describes herself as an “activist” and well she might. There is little recognisably “academic” in her routine.It is a conference dedicated to annihilation. So how appropriate that as the delegates finish their tax-payer subsidised lunch on the first day their “after lunch speaker” will be the disgraced academic Richard Falk who claims that Israel behaves like the Nazis.This is no debate as all the speakers are either known BDS fanatics or Anti-Israel or both. The outcome of this CON-ference has already been decided. So yes I stand with Simon Myerson and Mark Lewis .Shame on Southampton University.

(7)(2)

Sa

There are many pro-Israel academics justifying war crimes and apartheid in the UK. Some of these academics hold full time faculty positions at British universities. Odd that that is considered acceptable. As academics they have some influence over their students, this could produce graduates who think violence and racism is acceptable.

(3)(5)

Crouton

Even if this was a one sided conference it should be allowed to take place. When I visit a church that it is also a one-sided conference. When I go to a Tory conference that is also one-sided. When I go to any meeting where there is not a counter party there is this scenario. Is this a crime?

(3)(0)

Justin Fisher

Has anyone actually read the article in the paper? The criticism that you make is based upon a hypothetical point. It clearly states that “if students are being taught that there is only one side…”

The idea that Lewis is right wing is a bit rich given that he took on Rupert Murdoch (the real one). Really do some research.

Those who talk of free speech need to look at the conference. It is a conference not a debate. It is one sided in its premise, one sided in its speakers. That is not a level playing field.

Before you criticise go ahead and read. The very advocates of free speech are the ones who deny it. The BDS movement seeks to ban Israeli speakers. Isn’t it ironic that free speech is frowned upon when people speak up against the conference.

(7)(0)

Paul Corrick

Apartheid ? The Arab list recently won 14 seats in the General Election . A free election denied to all other Arab States in the region and presided over by an Arab Judge. In 2004 Bnei Sakhnin became the first Arab -israeli soccer team to win the state cup. Israel officially recognises 15 different religious groups. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population has grown over the last fifty years.Ask yourself why? In 1977 Israel granted asylum to 400 Vietnamese boat people fleeing oppression. Arab and Israeli doctors work alongside each other in hospitals and treat both Arab and Jewish Patients in the same hospitals. As for war crimes I think carrying out indiscriminate suicide attacks on civilians in Buses, Hotels , shopping malls, Restaurants and launching thousands of rockets some of which killed Palestinians are enough war crimes. Plus Terror tunnels designed to kill using Concrete that should have been used for housing and infrastructure.Israel like any country is not perfect but those here condemning her would not last five minutes in the surrounding Arab countries .These are the countries who practice Apartheid and racism. These are the countries who will not let Jewish people live there and oppress their own people. These are the countries who want to over throw Israel using violence.

(7)(5)

Sa

Let it out. Let it out.

This much hatred boiling up inside you is unhealthy.

(6)(2)

Crouton

The great thing about your comment (even though I disagree with them), is that Legal Cheek is allowing us all to have an open debate of our views, something I imagine you would oppose (because naturally Israel can do no wrong…?)

(3)(3)

Human and Right

Yes Paul, Israel treats Arabs wonderfully. Just look at Gaga.

Plus, if you think the situation within Israel is all milk and honey then you’re deluded.

Plus, “within Israel” means being on land taken by force, illegally, from Arabs.

(3)(4)

Human and Right

Gaza^

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Anonymous

Anyone want to raise any objections to the one-sided, propagandist pro-Israel conference that happened in London this past weekend? Nobody? Nothing?

(2)(3)

Marmalade

I see that Israel will now go on Alex’s top hits list along with Lord Harley and ‘my barrister boyfriend’.

I wonder how he can incorporate them all into one story.

(2)(0)

Aardvark

How about:

‘Lord Harley Claims to Be Netanyahu’s Love Child From Hottie Barrister One-Night Stand’.

(2)(0)

Paul Corrick

Crouton I never said Israel can do no wrong so do not put wordss into my mouth. The debate here is very diffferent to a one sided hate fest .for a debate you need at least two sides. so I have no problem people debating about the policies of the Israeli Government as I would not about the polices of any Government. Human and right . check your facts .Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and it is Hamas who have kept her own people in perpetual misery. When Israel pulled out and left 10,000 greenhouses Hamas instead of using them decided to destroy them and concentrate on building tunnels and buying rockets. is it morally right that the leaders of Hamas are billionaires who live in Qatar and Turkey while the people of Gaza live with the fear of war? I do not think it is all milk and honey and would love to see both sides live in peace but peace doers not mean the destruction of either side be that Israel or the Palestinians.Anonymous (not willing to share your name) That conference in London was not one to say any Arab state was illegal .I would have no problem with a Pro -Palestinian conference . it was a conference to support Israel..very different from the Southampton hate fest.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

Any conference that supports Israel is by definition a Palestinian hate fest. The very existence of Israel is a Palestinian hate fest. Did I miss the “Palestine is a legal state?” panel? Of course not, Israel doesn’t recognize Palestine as a legal state.

Also it’s just sad that you would even say “Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 and it is Hamas who have kept her own people in perpetual misery” because it’s pretty much universally accepted now that this is not true and I don’t know what alternate universe of law you live in. Please move on to more sophisticated arguments, not just the factually unsupported propaganda liberal media feeds you.

(0)(7)

Crouton

But even if it did become a ‘one sided hate fest’ would that matter? If hateful people wish to gather in a group and exchange emissions of rage that do no good to anyone, then let the sad fools do that. It is not for society to say what people can feel and express (on whatever subject). It should not be illegal to express an emotion/position on a subject no matter how factually incorrect one may be.

(4)(1)

Paul Corrick

Anonymous you live in a dream world. you can be Pro -Israel and Pro Palestinian. I Have you ever been to Israel or Gaza ? Your arguments are deeply flawed .Israel pulled out of Gaza that is a fact. Most people do recognise how Hamas have inflicted misery on the local population. You are the one spouting factually unsupported propaganda. I have first hand experience of the area and I suggest it is you who are taken in by the media. You never once mention peace . Your motives are clear and your mind is closed . Nothing more for me to say. others here will hopefully take a more pragmatic and balanced view.

(7)(3)

Dan

Either your for or against free speech. Mark is entitled to employ whoever he wants and if he thinks a Southampton law degree is tainted, then he is entitled to think that, regardless of whether it is or isn’t. Based on this conference and the Uni’s stance, I would think exactly the same.

(2)(1)

A

Actually discrimination based on political beliefs is prohibited by SRA regulations. So no, Mark is not entitled to employ whoever he wants

If the UK does not take action, it may be find itself in breach of the ECHR:

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/about-us/devolved-authorities/commission-scotland/legal-work-scotland/articles/calling-time-dismissal-grounds-political-belief

(4)(0)

Mr D

My understanding of free speech is that although everyone has a right to it, the right to free speech will not protect a person who tries to spread hateful lies against another. Israel is a legitimate state in that it was created in a peaceful and a legal process by the UN. The title of the conference together with the totally one sided panel of speakers can only lead to a ‘hatefest’ against Israel. As such the freedom to criticise is not appropriate here and therefore I stand with the words of Mr Lewis. I too wouldn’t want to employ a student who has graduated from a university that has condoned this type of event.

(3)(3)

Not Amused

Right. Let’s be absolutely clear:

It is thoroughly disgusting and in entirely morally repugnant to threaten children. Threatening to hurt their career prospects because the university they attended once hosted a conference you disapproved of is vile.

There is nothing that justifies deliberately trying to hurt innocents – no matter how upset anyone may be.

(3)(1)

Tan

The only positive that comes out of this is that this exposes how vile some in the pro-Israel camp are. This will give fair minded people more cause to stand with the Palestinians against these bullies.

(3)(4)

Mr D

You are correct, let’s be absolutely clear. It’s your opinion that nothing justifies hurting innocents etc. It’s not mine. The whole idea of this conference is ‘repugnant’ to me and as such, if these students were ‘innocent’, they would be demonstrating and vocal in their condemnation of it. However it is the opposite that is true – their silence is deafening. In fact it’s a similar silence to the one shown by the people of Gaza in response to the acts of the proscribed terrorists governing them, Hamas. It’s also very similar to the mass condemnation throughout the world of ISIS. I wish they’d speak up a tad as I’m struggling hearing them!

(5)(5)

Not Amused

You are entitled to your opinion. Just as I am entitled to judge you for expressing it.

The views you express make you in my view, a vile and disgusting human being. I do not think you represent the pro-Israeli lobby. I do not think you represent Israel. I definitely do not think in any way that you represent Jews. You represent only yourself and the views you hold about your willingness to bully and threaten entirely innocent 3rd parties are beneath contempt.

Simon Myerson rightly and nobly, while no doubt feeling extremely emotional about the topic, rightly distanced himself from the idea of blaming innocent kids. Mark Lewis probably spoke in heat – or must otherwise answer to his regulator. You have had the luxury of time for cool and calm reflection. It is you who I thoroughly condemn.

I shan’t be wasting any more time on you. The only way you could redeem yourself in my eyes is if you think about what you have said and admit that you are wrong. I am only writing to condemn you so that innocent and frightened young people, reading this exchange, might in someway find comfort in my words.

(4)(3)

Paxman's Retirement Planner

As an aside, are Putin, Clarkson and Netanyahu related? Or perhaps even the same person? You never see all three in the same room? All seem so similar in their approach to life and how they treat others.

(3)(1)

Deed U No

Lawyer Mark Lewis holds a practising licence from the SRA. He is obliged to act ethically and professionally at all times (when dealing with the public at large).
However his remarks re – Southampton law students, could be contrary to Law Society code of professional standards and ethics. He may be bringing his profession into disrepute.

(3)(2)

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