London – CAGE is publishing crucial expert testimonies by leading scholars, Professor John Dugard SC  and Professor Avi Shlaim , challenging the prevailing narrative on Israel’s “right to exist” which the UK government imposed on schools and the wider education sector. These expert testimonies are a critcal resource for campaigners advocating for Palestinian rights and challenging rigid pro-Israel policies in their institutions and legal disputes.
The testimonies are part of CAGE’s legal action against the former Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, who obliged schools to adopt a partisan view on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a letter dated 28th May 2021. In his guidance to schools, Williamson falsely equated the rejection of the State of Israel’s ‘right to exist’ with antisemitism and instructed school authorities to not work with organisations who adopt this view.
We are also pleased that the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), which defends and empowers advocates for Palestinian rights, will co-publish these expert testimonies.
In May 2021, during a period of increased Israeli aggression against Palestinians, Gavin Williamson’s intervention sought to clamp down on growing student-led expressions of Palestinian solidarity in schools. His letter effectively curtailed any further student acts of solidarity with Palestine and acted as a post-facto justification for the sanctioning of the pupils; this included- but was not limited to- detentions, suspensions and PREVENT referrals.
In August 2021, CAGE launched a legal challenge highlighting the discriminatory impact of the letter, explaining the right for states to exist has no basis in international law (distinct from the ‘right to self-determination’ that is protected by international law). The ‘right to exist’ is therefore a partisan political view that should not be singularly promoted in schools.
Commenting on its publication, CAGE’s Head of Public Advocacy Anas Mustapha said:
“These expert testimonies will be critical tools to fight disinformation on Israel-Palestine for activists and in future legal cases. Such work serves as a strong rebuttal against draconian claims made against campaigners and will be a step closer to open and effective advocacy for the Palestinian cause.”
 Professor John Dugard has been a Senior Counsel in Australia for over twenty years, and is an associate at Doughty Street Chambers, renowned for their human rights and civil liberties work, and international law legal consultant at the Hague. He has spent time at the United National International Law Commission and International Court of Justice and served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Additionally, he has written extensively about international law and apartheid, including in Palestine.
 Professor Avi Shlaim is a former professor at the University of Oxford. His academic expertise is the international relations of the Middle East, focusing primarily on the Arab-Israeli conflict, a subject on which he has been published widely over the years. He has also written specifically about the question of Israel’s right to exist and the dynamics of antisemitism within the discourse on anti-Zionism and the Israel-Palestine conflict. As such, it is clear that these two individuals are well suited to provide expert evidence in a judicial review of this nature and on the subject of Israel-Palestine more broadly.
Image from Unsplash courtesy of Yousef Salhamoud
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)