UJ gives Ben Gurion ultimatum
Johannesburg - The University of Johannesburg (UJ) senate on Wednesday voted not to continue its link with Israel's Ben Gurion University (BGU), unless certain conditions are met.
"The conditions are that the memorandum of understanding governing the relationship between the two institutions be amended to include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of UJ," the university said in a statement.
"Additionally, UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications, this to be monitored by UJ's senate academic freedom committee."
The move followed calls from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, academics and the Congress of SA Trade Unions for UJ to cut ties with BGU due to its "direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation".
The UJ senate also requested BGU to "respect UJ's duty (and) to take seriously, allegations of behaviour on the part of BGU's stakeholders that is incompatible with UJ's values".
It called on BGU to respond to reasonable requests from UJ seeking more information about the university's formal policies and informal practices.
Should these conditions not be met within six months, the memorandum of understanding will automatically lapse on April 1 2011, UJ said.
The senate action is the result of findings by a task team established at a special meeting of the university senate on May 17.
UJ's deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib said: "The committee met five times with a view to finding a principled common ground on which a recommendation to senate could be advanced.
"In developing this recommendation we were mindful that our recommendation would need to be consistently applied in other similar contexts where UJ's central values were not upheld and where human rights abuses were identified."
Earlier on Wednesday, UJ's student representative council (SRC) added its voice to the campaign.
"As the student representative council acting on behalf of the student community of UJ, we publicly announce our support for the principled position of over 250 South African academics who have made a statement in favour of terminating the agreement," the SRC said in a statement.
The SRC said it joined Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University's vice chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz, Rhodes University's Professor Saleem Badat, Unisa vice chancellor Professor Barney Pityana and Durban University of Technology's Professor Dan Ncayiyana in calling for an end to agreements between the two institutions.
The Mail & Guardian reported that ties between the two institutions dated back to the 1980s.
Israel National News online said growing pressure on UJ could stop a research agreement between the institutions to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification projects.
The 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 reads.