SINCE it was first mooted, media reports on plans to hold a conference in Cork on Israel have been invariably preceded by the adjective “controversial”.
As the Irish Examiner reported earlier this week: “A controversial conference about Israel is to go ahead in Cork at the end of the month but will be jointly staged at City Hall and University College Cork.”
The full title of the conference is ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Exceptionalism and Responsibility.’
Those vehemently opposed to the conference have seized on the word “legitimacy”, suggesting that it is skewed towards questioning the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself. In other words, it is questioning the right of Israel to exist, a Red Line issue that Israeli administrations have insisted they will not cross in negotiations with Palestinians.
But the essence of democracy is dissent and, in that respect, attempts to prevent the conference from taking place does no service to Israel, whose existence does not stem from the 1917 Balfour Declaration, anymore than an independent Ireland’s existence relies on Britain’s 1922 Irish Free State Constitution Act.
Both nations derive their legitimacy from self determination. No “controversial” conference can change that.
Israelis should welcome the conference, not oppose it.
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