On Wednesday, 23rd March 2011, the University of Johannesburg's (UJ) Senate voted, by an almost two-thirds majority, to end its agreement with Israel's Ben-Gurion University (BGU). Here is how the Senate meeting went:

The question as to whether BGU had complied with the list of conditions imposed on it's relationship with UJ (as stipulated by UJ's 29 September Senate Resolution) was considered by UJ's Senate. It was clear that BGU had not met these conditions and that the UJ-BGU agreement would have to be terminated.

There was a last-ditch attempt however, to have the entire Senate Resolution (and the attached conditions) squashed and a two hour debate followed.

months of awareness-raising, the solid UJ-BGU report, unprecedented academic support and the sustained and cogent arguments by UJ Senate members present at the meeting (who supported ending relations with BGU) finally resulted in a vote of 72-45 in favor of upholding the Senate Resolution (which it was clearly understood would mean that the UJ-BGU agreement will terminate).


This petition has been so much more than simply adding one's name to a list. Supporting this petition has meant that each person whose name appears had to take the time to reply to our messages and for some, this even meant sending notes of encouragement and support - we thank all those involved for your time and for the support.


In the few hours after the decision was announced, UJ and the UJ Petititon committee received a number of messages of congratulations and support for Senate upholding the Senate Resolution. The following are excerpts from a few of those responses:

I just heard on the radio that UJ Senate decided to severe all ties! I rejoice with you...Since 1980 I have ties with the Palestinians and I am delighted that we could show solidarity with them!
- Professor at UNISA, Pretoria

Congratulations on this amazing boycott victory in the struggle to end Israeli apartheid!
- Lecturer, University of Toronto (Canada)

[We] applaud you and want to endorse your momentous decision to severe ties with Ben-Gurion University in Apartheid Israel.
- Justice for Palestinians NGO, San Jose, California

Well done and all strength to you all.
- Professor at Rhodes University, South Africa

I applaud the University of Johannesburg's principled stance on divestment
- University of Windsor, Canada

Dear UJ Senior Management & Senate Members, Congratulations on your brave decision to cut all ties with the BGU in Israel.  It takes guts to do what you just did….The outcome of your decision may not be evident just yet but in years to come the people of Palestine will remember who their friends were.  Your decision is a reminder to the apartheid State of Israel to re-think its policies towards the Palestinian people. Once again, congratulations, & may UJ grow from strength to strength.
- Signatory of the UJ Petititon, Rhodes University.

We are indeed all pleased that the little efforts we all made in solidarity with the Palestinian peoples have yielded good results. May they find resolve in these acts of solidarity that will propel their struggles foward. On the other hand we must congratulate not just UJ academics who passionately pursued the matter but the Management who had the courage to open the matter up for interrogation.
- Member of staff, University of Fort Hare

...[T]hank you for all your efforts. I feel that the UJ example will provide a way forward for many of us working in other academic institutions.
- Professor, University of Cape Town

The management of UJ must be congratulated for taking this bold step…The majority support of the UJ senate for severing institutional ties between UJ and Ben Gurion University, I believe, will encourage academics at other tertiary institutions in South Africa (and perhaps, beyond) to be more courageous when dealing with what is called the "Middle East problem". South African academics have a moral obligation to expose the distortions by Israeli spokespersons and its apologists and presenting the truth of what has been transpiring in Occupied Palestine.           
- Professor, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal

Dear members of the University of Johannesburg's management - Congratulations on your brave and ethical decision to terminate your relationship with Ben-Gurion University. Thank you on behalf of supporters of Palestinians across the world; you are setting a fine example.
- Professor, Australia

I am a very great advocate of the boycott of [Israeli] universities which are the architects of all the oppression and humiliation measures of the Israeli occupation forces. Israel wants to hold up how cultured it is. I remember from my time under Nazi occupation how proud the Nazis were of their contacts with universities or if Beethoven was being played in the Concertgebouw [hall] in Amsterdam by a German. While we were in South Africa we learned that the University of Johannesburg severed its ties with Ben Gurion University. And there were protests against the speaking tour of [pro-Israel Harvard law professor] Alan Dershowitz.
- Hajo Meyer (Interview on 27 april 2011) 

We, participants at the Kairos Southern Africa conference, that met from 3 - 4 April 2011 in Johannesburg, want to express our heartfelt appreciation to your University for its recent decision to terminate its agreement with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University.  We applaud this major signal of support for non-violent Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation and their struggle for justice and freedom. Only justice will secure peace, security and reconciliation for all the people of that region.
- Letter to UJ from Christian Leaders (Kairos Southern Africa)

A post-apartheid South African university that is in the process of transforming itself to a truly democratic institution has proven that it cannot possibly complete this necessary transformation while maintaining a partnership with an apartheid institution elsewhere. We sincerely salute UJ for completely severing its institutional links with BGU and look towards other universities around the world to be inspired by this historic precedent by ending their own links with Israeli institutions complicit in violating international law and all basic tenants of human rights. 
- Letter from PACBI, 23 March 2011


The unprecedented academic support received during this campaign marks a significant step (at least in the South African context) in the reflection on the ethics of academic engagement generally, and in the context of Palestine-Israel in particular. This decision to end institutional links with a university on the basis of that institution's complicity in human rights abuses and apartheid policies marks a first in South Africa.

There is growing momentum and need for similar initiatives to be taken. This decision is a precedent (and form of solidarity) being celebrated by Palestinian academics ( as well as a growing group of Israelis who are resisting their regime. All of them are asking the world to end normal relations with abnormal Israeli institutions; the same that was called for during apartheid, in South Africa.

Students or academics interested in furthering or partaking in similar initiatives on their campuses can contact for more information.