Britain’s leading humanities and social sciences academy has distanced itself from a conference that is expected to feature a controversial anti-Israel speaker.
The British Academy said it was not aware of plans for the Human Rights in Palestine conference, despite its logo appearing on the event’s promotional material.
Speakers at the two-day conference due to be held in Canberra, Australia, next month include Richard Falk, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories. He has been the subject of repeated complaints over his approach to Israel.
Mr Falk, who is Jewish, was condemned by UK Prime Minister David Cameron last year for publishing on his blog an Arab cartoon showing a dog wearing a kippah and urinating on a figure of justice.
He was also criticised in April after his blog appeared to suggest the Boston marathon bombings were a result of United States policy on Israel. Mr Falk denied his remarks were intended to make such a link.
The Jewish Leadership Council has written to the academy, and to Business Secretary Vince Cable, whose department provides around 90 per cent of the academy’s funding.
JLC chief executive Jeremy Newmark wrote: “The British taxpayer’s sponsorship of Falk offends Jews worldwide, as well as risking a diplomatic incident with the United States.”
UN Watch, a group which monitors the UN, said it was shocked by the academy’s apparent support for the conference.
Hillel Neuer, UN Watch executive director, wrote to the academy’s president Lord Stern, urging him “to act swiftly to remove the good name of the British Academy from any association with Mr Falk”.
A spokeswoman for the academy said it had provided a grant to a lecturer at Lancaster University in 2009 and that the woman had legitimately used part of that money to organise the conference.
“The Academy is not organising the conference and was not consulted on the programme,” said the spokeswoman.
“Any views expressed at the conference are not the views of the British Academy.”