Human rights and antisemitism expert 'disinvited' from Holocaust memorial event

Professor Rosa Freedman claims she is a victim of 'spurious and non-evidenced accusations of transphobia'


A leading human rights expert who claims she has been removed from events because of  “spurious and non-evidenced accusations of transphobia” has called on the universities minister to investigate.

Professor Rosa Freedman - the inaugural professor of law, conflict and global development at Reading University and a member of the UN secretary-general’s civil society advisory board – claims she was “disinvited” from a panel on antisemitism for an Essex University  Holocaust memorial event.

In a letter to her local MP, Hertsmere’s Oliver Dowden, Prof Freedman pointed out that she had used her academic and practitioner expertise to both write and speak about the need to uphold women’s and transgender rights.

However, by speaking out on the issue, she had been “subjected to online and in-person abuse on university campuses, including threats, intimidation, and attempts to no-platform me and to close down events where I am speaking”.

Her “appalling treatment” reflected wider attempts across campuses to “silence, gag and intimidate academics who seek to protect sex-based rights alongside transgender rights as two separate protected characteristics within UK law [particularly the Equality Act]”.

Prof Freedman had been particularly keen to speak at the Essex University event, given that over the past year, she and her research assistant had provided “the highest level of support” to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to write the first UN human rights report on antisemitism.

She maintained that, in light of her “world leading expertise”, and also as a member of the Jewish community, Essex had led her to believe she would formally be invited as a panellist. But over a ten-day period, she received communications alleging problems over her participation, one of which was “that the committee had issues with me speaking”.

She accused the university of restricting speakers “on the basis that they are supposedly transphobic despite no evidence existing of such alleged transphobia”.

Prof Freedman told the JC: “I have been labelled within academia as transphobic although I have never said or done anything remotely transphobic. The hill I will die on is protecting people of all races and genders.”

She praised her own university’s “stellar” support following an informal investigation into both complaints about her and her own complaints about the way some Reading students and staff were treating her.

Prof Freedman, a member of the Ohr Yisrael Federation community in Elstree, added that she was “deeply dismayed” at not being able to address the Essex University event.

In a statement to the Sunday Times, the university acknowledged that Prof Freedman had been approached as a potential speaker but denied making or withdrawing an official invitation.

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