Sep 28, 2010

#BDS: Israel, South Africa, Academic Boycotts

The Faculty Senate at the University of Johannesburg will vote this week on whether to end an academic relationship between the South African university and one in Israel, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
The vote has set off an intense debate among South African academics and intellectuals, with Archbishop Desmund Tutu last week urging the faculty at Johannesburg to cut their ties to Ben-Gurion. "Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation," Tutu wrote in Times Live.
For Israeli academics and many others who oppose academic boycotts, a vote to sever ties to Ben-Gurion could mark a major defeat. Not only would there be a concrete example of institutional support for an academic boycott, but there would be added symbolism to the move coming from South Africa. Boycott backers have repeatedly compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to the apartheid regime in South Africa's treatment of its black majority -- a comparison that has been fiercely opposed by Israel's supporters (and by some critics of Israel as well).

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