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Wiesenthal Centre's Call for Authorities to Annul "Israel Apartheid Week" in France Results in Paris University President's Ban on "Boycott Conference"

Paris, 21 February 2012

The President of Centre Simon Wiesenthal Centre-France,Richard Odier and its Director for  International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, on 15 February had warned  French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, that a conference entitled "New Sociological, Historical and Juridical Approaches to the Call for International Boycott : Israel, an Apartheid State "scheduled for  27-28 February on the campus of Paris University 8 (St Denis) could  "degenerate into a threat to public order and endanger the Jewish community".

The Centre's position was vindicated by a press release issued 17 February, by the University, that stated : 

"The University of Paris 8  was recently requested to authorize a conference on its campus entitled 'New Sociological, Historical and Juridical approaches to the Call for International Boycott : Israel, an Apartheid State ?' scheduled for 27-28 February. 

At first, the University's President granted his authorization to the organizers on condition that certain obligations be scrupulously observed, on the one hand, absolute respect for the principle of neutrality and secularism of this establishment, and on the other, the removal of logos and other visuals of Paris University 8 which has no part in initiating of this event. 

In giving his authorization, the University's President behaved as he would to the request of any organization for a public meeting, taking into account both freedom of expression and assembly of the University community, and maintenance of public order on campus, as also the intellectual and scientific independence of the establishment and neutrality in public service in a perspective of expression of pluralism of opinion. 

Nevertheless, today it appears that respect for these conditions cannot be seen as sufficient to guarantee public order on the campus or intellectual or scientific independence of the establishment, in which pluralism of scientific approaches as well as critical and contradictory analysis must be seen as academic intangible obligations. 

Indeed, the presentation of this "conference" as "academic", just as the repeated presence of "Paris 8" in statements relating to this conference have, themselves, created a confusion that may be harmful to the University's independence of political and ideological positions. The reactions to the holding of this event target the University demonstrating confusion and a real risk to respect for neutrality of public service in higher education and research. 

The theme of this conference, the nature of the proposed speeches, the titles of the contributions, are of a strong polemical character and have led to  vivid reactions, foreseeing a serious risk of public disorder and counter-demonstrations that the University must prevent. 

In these circumstances, the President has decided to withdraw his prior authorization." 


While organizers of the "boycott conference" are now circulating a petition to press the University to conform to their wishes,the Wiesenthal Centre - France today commended Paris University 8 President, Professor Pascal Binczak, for his courage and the rectitude of his decision to banish hate-mongering on his campus : 

"Mr. President, 

The over 400,000 members of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre commend you for your courage and the rectitude of your decision to ban the conference, scheduled for your campus on February 27-28, entitled 'New Sociological,Historical and Juridical approaches to the Call for International Boycott : Israel, an Apartheid State ?' 

Your judgment is consonant with the jurisprudential precedent created by the 7 March 2011 decision of the Council of State to uphold the refusal of a hall to the Collectif Palestine (Palestine Society) at the prestigious Paris college - The Ecole Normale Supérieure - arguing that 'this did not violate freedom of assembly and of expression on campus'. 

Your decision to banish hatemongering from your campus sets an honourable precedent to the glory of France and an example to universities across Europe. 

We salute you and stand in solidarity with your resistance to pressure from those who would abuse your University's hospitality under a false 
claim of academic debate. 

Most respectfully 

Richard Odier 
President Simon Wiesenthal Centre - France 

Dr. Shimon Samuels 
Director for International Relations 
Simon Wiesenthal Centre "