Cosatu wants UJ to cut Israel ties

2010-09-28 22:43

Johannesburg - The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday added its voice to calls for the University of Johannesburg to cut ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University (BGU).

"(We) call upon the University of Johannesburg to act in the interest of justice and terminate an agreement between itself and the Ben Gurion University, on the grounds of BGU's direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation itself," said Cosatu's international relations secretary, Bongani Masuku, in a statement.

"We support the demand by workers and students, together with progressive academics of the University of Johannesburg, to have any relationship with any Israeli institution terminated instantly."

University of Johannesburg deputy vice chancellor, Adam Habib, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Unisa vice chancellor Barney Pityana and author Breyten Breytenbach joined academics this month in calling for co-operation between the two institutions to cease.


The Mail & Guardian reported that the ties between the two institutions dated back to the 1980s.

The report said UJ's senate was expected to hear recommendations on the future of ties with BGU on Wednesday.

Israel National News online reported that the growing pressure on UJ could stop a research agreement between the institutions to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification.

A petition signed by academics called for the termination of the co-operation, arguing that scholarly work took place within a larger social context.

"The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had a disastrous effect 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," the petition read.

"BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence force and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation."


The Israel National News online, however, said the BGU was headed by two presidents in favour of "expelling most Jews from Judea and Samaria and creating a Palestinian Authority state in their place".

The report said the university was also a "hotbed for left-wing and Bedouin activists whose views are non-Zionist".

BGU officials were "disturbed" by calls for UJ to cut ties with it.

"Those opposed to this collaboration accuse BGU of 'abusing academic freedom, abusing human rights and being an accomplice to an Apartheid government system in Israel'.

"These accusations and others made in their statements (...) are totally false and based upon ignorance and prejudice," said the BGU officials in a statement, quoted in the Israel National News online.

Masuku welcomed the growing number of calls globally for Israel to end its "illegal occupation" of Palestine.

"Various universities and organisations, including companies all over the world, are now disinvesting in companies that have anything to do with propping up the apartheid regime in Israel."

He likened the struggle against apartheid in South Africa to the situation faced by the Palestinian people.

"The UN declared apartheid a crime against humanity and called on humanity to fight against this barbaric political system wherever it appears and South Africans have a moral duty to lead this important struggle."

At its national general council last week, the ANC reaffirmed its support for peace in the Middle East.

Delegates also reportedly called for an examination of economic ties with Israel.