Sowetan Live: New leaf for UJ

New leaf for UJ
Sowetan Live [25_03_11]

THE University of Johannesburg's severing ties with Israel's Ben-Gurion University was the right thing to do, the SA Municipal Workers' Union said yesterday.

"Samwu encourages all other South African universities and academic institutions to refuse to deal with any institution that openly supports Israeli apartheid and, or oppression of fellow human beings," spokesperson Tahir Sema said in a statement.

UJ on Wednesday announced it had cut ties with BGU over concerns it was supporting the Israeli military, in particular its occupation of Gaza.

A petition was circulated last year calling for the UJ to end the relationship.

Supporters of the campaign included Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche.

They also included cartoonist Jonathan "Zapiro" Shapiro, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Bishop Rubin Phillips, former minister Ronnie Kasrils and Aids activist Zackie Achmat.

Vice-chancellor Adam Habib said UJ would end its 25-year relationship with BGU on April 1.

But professors could, however, continue to work individually with the Israeli university, he said.

"It is a proud day for UJ, indeed for all South Africans, particularly for the more than 400 academic signatories to the UJ Petition," Sema said.

He said other universities now had an example to follow.

"Apologists for apartheid Israel will try to hypocritically criticise and threaten UJ for their valiant and noble decision."

Sema said a Congress of South African Trade Unions-led coalition for a free Palestine also welcomed the UJ's decision.

It had begun discussions to work out how to give practical support to the university.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel group described UJ's decision as a special "landmark moment".

Not everyone supported the move, however. The South African Union of Jewish Students expressed "deep disappointment".

"This is indeed a sad day for academic freedom in South Africa," the union's chairperson Stephanie Hodes said.

Meanwhile, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has also welcomed the decision by UJ to cut ties with Israel's Ben-Gurion University, and "we congratulate the UJ community that worked tirelessly to realise this decision".

The campaign united academics, students, and workers at UJ, and brought together the academic community, including black and white, Gentile and Jew in an effort to ensure that UJ would take the correct moral and principled position, it said in a statement.