23 March 2011

A landmark victory was achieved today in South Africa for the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign of  Israel. Setting a worldwide precedent for the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has decided to sever ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).

In September 2010, UJ refused to continue its relationship with BGU unless certain criteria were met within 6 months. This included a requirement that a Palestinian university must be included in the research relationship. BGU failed to meet this condition, as well as the other criteria set by the Senate Resolution, owing to the unanimous and principled support by all Palestinian universities to refuse to entertain any links with BGU on the grounds of that University’s complicity in Israeli apartheid.

Detailed evidence was placed before Senate showing clearly BGU’s active restriction and violation of political and academic freedom; its direct and deliberate collaboration with the Israeli Defence Force (an occupying military force in flagrant violation of international law); and its maintenance of policies and practices that further entrench the discriminatory policies of the Israeli state.

Despite attempts by Israeli lobbyists to propose various compromised positions in a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship, UJ’s Senate clearly decided today to uphold its previous Resolution instead. UJ’s relationship with BGU will now terminate on the first of April as per protocol.

UJ Petition Campaign
The UJ campaign managed to gain the unprecedented support of over 400 South African academics, including 9 South African Vice-Chancellors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors; 11 Deans and Vice Deans; 19 Heads of Department; 175 University Professors and 125 Academic Doctorates.

Included in the list of supporters are some of South Africa’s leading voices and anti-apartheid stalwarts: Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Rashida Manjoo, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche.

South Africa's popular cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Bishop Rubin Phillips, former Minister Ronnie Kasrils and social activist Zackie Achmat also backed the campaign.

Historic step. International implications.
UJ has taken an important and historic step today demonstrating its commitment to solidarity with the oppressed. Setting the precedent of no "business as usual" with Israeli institutions, other South African universities are expected to follow this lead.

Furthermore, this boycott decision, coming from a South African institution, is of particular international significance and must start a domino boycott effect.


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