UJ upholds boycott

10 July 2011
By: Voice of the Cape

The University of Johannesburg had dismissed "with contempt" what it calls attempts by the pro-Israeli lobby to "mislead the public" by implying that UJ has reinstated its old Memorandum of Understanding with Israel's Ben-Gurion University (BGU). In a statement issued by the UJ Petition Committee, it said their decision to terminate UJ’s institutional agreement with BGU was reaffirmed in a recent follow-up meeting of Senate on 22 June.

"The UJ Petition Committee confirms that Friday’s signing of an individual agreement by Bheki Mamba of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) does not violate UJ’s academic boycott of Israel. This agreement, signed by an individual scientist at UJ with several other individual researchers, including one at BGU, is consistent with UJ’s 'ban on institutional relationships with Israel. The agreement, as per academic boycott guidelines, is not an institutional relationship," the statement issued on Saturday said.

UJ is the first university in the world to officially implement the academic boycott of Israel. It said the individual agreement signed Friday reconfirms UJ’s historic decision to boycott Israel. "UJ’s Senate should be commended for withstanding the immense pressure put on it by the pro-Israeli lobby to reinstate the old institutional agreement," the statement added.

Over a period of more than 12 months staff and students together with the UJ Petition Committee successfully campaigned for the severing of the university's formal institutional agreement with Israel’s BGU. On 23 March this year, in a widely publicized decision, UJ’s Senate resolved to terminate – and not merely allow to “lapse” - its institutional agreement with BGU. The termination of the agreement was the result of BGU’s failure to comply with conditions set by the university – including BGU’s refusal to end its links with the Israeli military.

Individual agreement

"This decision, based on the 'principle of solidarity with the oppressed', was the result of a twelve month democratic and transparent consultative process. The campaign for UJ to sever its Israeli links included the support of Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and over 400 prominent South African academics. In line with the principle of academic freedom, UJ’s Senate affirmed that individual researchers may continue research relations in their individual capacity, without institutional partnering. Thus Bheki Mamba, an individual scientist from UJ, was allowed to enter into an individual agreement to participate in a water research study with researchers from several universities, including one from BGU," said UJ's Prof Farid Essack.

"The claims in the Israeli media that an institutional contract has been revived is false and reflects a desperate, and pathetic, attempt to counter Israel’s increasing isolation. There has been no revival of institutional ties between UJ and BGU. In fact, the decision to terminate UJ’s agreement with BGU was reaffirmed in a very recent Senate meeting (22 June 2011) when it unanimously adopted the minutes of its earlier Senate meeting, parts of which read 'Senate voted by 60% to 37% to uphold its earlier resolution on the matter'."

Esack said, in addition, on Saturday morning UJ’s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Adam Habib, confirmed that Bheki Mamba's agreement is not an institutional one but “is an agreement where two researchers have decided to continue their research. UJ, as part of its commitment to Academic Freedom, has opted not to oppose Mamba’s project”.

"In the course of this very public debate at UJ, which resulted in the termination of its relationship with Israel’s BGU, the university specifically and academic freedom in general, have faced enormous pressure and threats from exceptionally wealthy individuals in the hospitality and banking industries. The affirmation of the rights of individual academics to pursue their research must be accompanied by a fierce denunciation of the very private assault by capital on academic freedom and democratic processes at the academy," Esack related.

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