UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Boycott Decision Reversed as Research Network Conference to go ahead in Israel

ENMESH, a European research network,  has confirmed that it will hold its 2021 Conference in Israel. The decision to move it to another country due to threats from BDS supporters has been reversed following representations from UKLFI and our contacts in 8 other countries.

Prof Zvi Ziegler, chair of the Israeli Universities’ Inter-Senate Committee and Counter Boycott Forum thanked UKLFI, commenting: “We owe you so much for your efforts and perseverance in this endeavour”.

The Israeli organising group reached an agreement with the new leadership of ENMESH , after lengthy negotiations. The 2021 meeting will be held in Israel but the details will be concluded after the Jewish holidays.

On 21 June this year the then Chair of the European Network for Mental Health Service Evaluation (ENMESH), Prof. Mike Slade of the University of Nottingham, decided to move the conference, which was scheduled to take place in Jerusalem in 2021, on the ground that ENMESH did not have resources to deal with the kind of campaign that holding a conference in Israel might attract.

This decision was drawn to UKLFI’s attention by Prof. Zvi Ziegler, who chairs Israeli Universities’  Inter- Senate Committee and the Israeli universities’ counter boycott forum.   UKLFI wrote to Prof. Slade and several other members of ENMESH’s Executive Committee, asking them to reverse that decision and drawing their attention to certain legal and practical consequences that may follow if the decision is not reversed. Top scientists including Lord Prof. Robert Winston and Prof. Michael Yudkin also expressed their disapproval at Prof. Slade’s decision, and Baroness Ruth Deech tabled  questions in the House of Lords.

Jonathan Turner informed Prof. Slade:  “The cancellation of the conference in Jerusalem clearly constitutes an act of discrimination against Israeli researchers and practitioners. As such, we consider that it is unlawful under sections 29(2) and 57(2) of the Equality Act 2010. If it is not reversed, we will be minded to refer our concerns in this regard to the Equality and Human Rights Commission”.

“In addition, it appears to us that the cancellation contradicts the policies of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on equality, diversity and inclusion: see

These aim to “champion equality, diversity and inclusion across the research and innovation sector” and “embed equality, diversity and inclusion at all levels and in all that we do, both as an organisation and as a funder”.

“It seems to us that UKRI would be bound to take into account the denial of equality, diversity and inclusion represented by the cancellation of the conference in Jerusalem in relation to future applications for funding work by members of the ENMESH Executive Committee. If the decision is not reversed, we intend to draw this point to the attention of UKRI.”

UKLFI’s letters to other members of the Executive Committee of ENMESH pointed out that they could not wash their hands of responsibility by leaving this matter to the Chair. “The Executive Committee hold themselves out as running the ENMESH network. Acquiescence in the discriminatory conduct of the Chair would be a gross dereliction of the responsibility which they have assumed.”

An announcement, was posted on the ENMESH website  on 2 August 2019 confirming that the ENMESH Board had decided to continue discussions with its Israeli  partners regarding the conference being held in Israel after all.  Fortunately these discussions have concluded successfully for the Israelis.

Prof. Slade stepped down from his role as Chair of the ENMESH Board on 3 August 2019, and his successor is Prof. Bernd Puschner.

ENMESH was established in 1991 under the auspices of the World Health Organisation, Regional Office for Europe. It is a network of active researchers in the field of Mental Health Service Research and Evaluation.

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