Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University says sorry to Jewish academic for festival snub

The Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University has written an apology to an academic who was snubbed by the organisers of the recent Belfast Festival.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, who is the lead columnist on the Jewish Chronicle, was invited to join a panel of speakers to discuss the Middle East conflict at the Belfast Festival — only to have the invitation withdrawn later.

The University of Buckingham professor said he felt “personally insulted” after the invite was withdrawn in an email from the Director of the Belfast Festival, Graeme Farrow, just days before he was due to fly to Belfast for the talk.

QUB Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson has since written an email to Prof Alderman in which he stated that he endorsed the “full and unreserved apology” offered by Mr Farrow.

Prof Alderman said he accepted the apology and was “grateful for the many expressions of support he has received”. However, he added: “I still have not had an adequate explanation as to why the invitation was withdrawn.”

The Belfast Festival organisers initially arranged to have just two speakers at the event on October 18 — Avi Shlaim, professor of International Relations at Oxford University, who grew up in Israel, and QUB professor Beverly Milton-Edwards, who lived in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and acted as an EU adviser on the Middle East peace process.

However, Prof Alderman was invited after the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group complained that the speakers were both critics of Israel and therefore the event would be unbalanced.

Prof Alderman described how he was delighted to receive the invitation, but was later “outraged and saddened” to have the invitation withdrawn.

The professor pointed out that Queen’s had already paid for his flights from England and accommodation at the Europa Hotel.

A spokeswoman for QUB said: “Festival office made a full and unreserved apology to Professor Alderman.

“The Vice-Chancellor endorsed this apology on behalf of the University and Professor Alderman has accepted it.”

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