JERUSALEM POST: BGU hits back at South African Boycott

By Ben Hartman
Jerusalem Post - Israel [27_09_10]

Ben-Gurion president says claims that university is accomplice to Apartheid gov't "totally false, based on prejudice."
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev on Sunday hit back at a campaign launched to bring a partial boycott against the university, saying that the initiative is based on "ignorance and prejudice".

The boycott campaign being proposed by certain political elements in South Africa would apply pressure on the University of Johannesburg to boycott BGU and nix a collaboration agreement arranged between the two universities.

"Those opposed to this collaboration accuse BGU of "abusing academic freedom, abusing human rights and being an accomplice to an Apartheid government system in Israel." These accusations – and others made in their statements -- are totally false and based upon ignorance and prejudice," the university said in a statement released on Monday.

The boycott campaign was launched with a petition that began circulating in September and has since been signed by over 200 academics at nearly two dozen South African institutions.

Among other claims, the petition states that "the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access to education for Palestinians. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception, by maintaining links to both the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and the arms industry BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation."

According to BGU, the joint research project would seek solutions for water contamination in a reservoir near Johannesburg, a move that they say would directly benefit residents of the area and would help "improve the welfare of the South African people."

The press release also touts a quote made by South African President Nelson Mandela upon his receipt of an Honorary Doctoral Degree from Ben-Gurion University in 1997, in which he said "In Ben-Gurion University of the Negev we have a centre of excellence which represents the best in the traditions of the Jewish people: a sense of mission; internationalism; and inventiveness."