The conference, called “Israel Apartheid is Real,” was centered on the criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including the country’s settlements in West Bank deemed illegal by international law.
The University of Paris VIII decided to ban the debate, reportedly at the last moment – a move that has prompted questions whether free speech is allowed as long as it doesn’t undermine Israeli politics.
No freedom of speech in Paris 8 university for Israel apartheid criticism http://t.co/6IsUKwmceJ— Hotel Terminus (@hoterminus) March 8, 2015
One of the speakers at the canceled event was Max Blumenthal, an American journalist who writes for various U.S. publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and The Daily Beast.
Recommended: Will Israel Apartheid Week Do More Damage Than Good?
Despite the ban, organizers of the event, including the French Palestinian solidarity organization AURDIP (Association des Universitaires pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine) and the Collectif Palestine at the university intend to go ahead with the conference. According to Mondoweiss:
“We will not allow ourselves to be tamed by the presidency of the University of Saint-Denis, wallowing in its goals of normalization (whether they be in the domains of security, austerity, bureaucracy, or ideology) And since it prefers to yield to pressure and to accept the arguments of the defenders of Israeli policies, we will take responsibility on our side.
"We therefore intend to go ahead with this conference and we are calling for massive participation in a rally in front of Building D of the university, starting at 6 p.m., to assert our right to speak about 'controversial' subjects, our right to express our solidarity toward the Palestinian people, our right to self-organization and to independence of the student movement.”
This is not the first time such an event has been censored by the University of Paris VIII.
In 2012, a conference called “Israel: an apartheid state?” was shut down because the authorities thought it was “of a strongly polemical character” which posed “serious risk posed to public order” if the event went ahead.