Authors and academics lashed out at a British university yesterday after it buckled under pressure from Israeli lobbyists and put a law conference on hold.
Organisers of the conference on International Law and the State of Israel were left stunned this week after the University of Southampton withdrew its permission to host the event.
The conference, which was set to be held in a fortnight, would have discussed the legitimacy of the zionist state.
Unconfirmed reports suggested that academics are now considering legal action against the university for a violation of "freedom of speech and academic debate."
Author Ben White told the Star that the move was "an extraordinary betrayal of their own scholars and of the principle of academic freedom for the University of Southampton."
Mr White, who has written extensively on the subject of Israel and Palestine, launched a petition in suport of the conference which gathered almost 300 signatures in a few hours.
Organisers blamed "external pressure and interference" for the sudden review imposed by the university and worried that "to censor lawful academic discussion would set a worrying precedent."
Last month Local Government Minister Eric Pickles warned Southampton against hosting the event, arguing that it would be "allowing a one-sided diatribe."
The conference was set to host renowned Israeli historian Ilan Pappe and United Nations Palestine observer Richard Falk among its speakers.
A university spokesman insisted that discussions were still ongoing and the conference had not yet been cancelled.
"Any decision will be judged purely on considerations around the health and safety of our staff, students and for the general public," he added.
Former Leeds student and British-based Palestine solidarity activist Sequoyah de Souza said: "Cancellation is an affront to the principles of freedom of speech and academic debate."
"If we believe in the professed democratic values of our society, then we must register our outrage at the decision to cancel the conference.
"This is an affront to freedom of speech and academic debate, the very principles for which a university is supposed to represent."