Sep 24, 2010


Supported by: Professors Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John
Dugard, Antjie Krog, Mahmood Mamdani, Barney Pityana and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

As members of the academic community of South Africa, a country with a history of brute
racism on the one hand and both academic acquiescence and resistance to it on the
other, we write to you with deep concern regarding the relationship between the University
of Johannesburg (UJ) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The relationship
agreement, presented as ‘merely the continuation’ of a ‘purely scientific co-operation’ is
currently being reviewed owing to concerns raised by UJ students, academics and staff.
As academics we acknowledge that all of our scholarly work takes place within larger social
contexts – particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African
institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era
with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely
scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.
The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access
to education for Palestinians. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and
schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for
maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception, by maintaining links to both the Israeli
Defense Force (IDF) and the arms industry BGU structurally supports and facilitates the
Israeli occupation. An example of BGU’s complicity is its agreement with the IDF to provide
full university qualification to army pilots within a special BGU programme. Furthermore,
BGU is also complicit in the general discrimination at Israeli universities against
Palestinians and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
It is clear to us that any connection with an institution so heavily vested in the Israeli occupation
would amount to collaboration with an occupation that denigrates the values and
principles that form the basis of any vibrant democracy. These are not only the values
that underpin our post-apartheid South Africa, but are also values that we believe UJ has
come to respect and uphold in the democratic era.
We thus support the decision taken by UJ to reconsider the agreement between itself and
BGU. Furthermore, we call for the relationship to be suspended until such a time that, at
minimum, the state of Israel adheres to international law and BGU, (as did some South
African universities during the struggle against South African apartheid) openly declares
itself against the occupation and withdraws all privileges for the soldiers who enforce it.


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