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Board concerned over Exeter University conference on Israeli ‘colonialism’

    The Board of Deputies has raised concerns over a public body’s funding of an academic conference on “settler colonialism in Palestine”.

    Board CEO Gillian Merron wrote to the Arts and Humanities research council which, the Board said, had provided £247,535 worth of funding to a project of which the conference, due to take place at Exeter University in October, is a part.

    She said the conference was “a disingenuous attempt to politicise” issues surrounding Israel’s Bedouins community, “in the wider context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

    She added: “It appears that this is a publicly funded attempt to further a political agenda masquerading as an academic exercise.”

    Fiona Sharpe, of Sussex Friends of Israel, has urged Israel supporters to write to the AHRC, which provides around £102 million from the government to support research in the arts and humanities.

    “We are very concerned that public money is being used to support virulent propaganda throughout our universities,” she said.

    The conference would be biased and one-sided, she believed.

    “I don’t think we will find any pro-Israel speakers or anyone speaking against the notion that there is colonialism in Israel.”

    She added she was concerned over the possible effect the conference would have on the “comfort levels” of students at the university.

    The director of the university's European Centre for Palestine Studies, the anti-Zionist Israeli historian Ilan Pappé is listed as one of the speakers.

    A conference in Southampton challenging the right for Israel to exist was cancelled earlier this year following complaints from community bodies and pro-Israel groups.

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