UJ to mull Israeli university ties
Johannesburg – The University of Johannesburg (UJ) senate will hear recommendations from a task team on its relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel on Wednesday.
UJ deputy vice chancellor Adam Habib could not comment on the recommendations, saying he did not want to "pre-empt" the meeting.
The move followed calls from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, academics and the Cosatu for UJ to cut ties with BGU due to its "direct and indirect support for the Israeli military and the occupation".
On Wednesday, the 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 student body recognised its "interconnectedness" with students the world over. It however urged UJ to cut ties with an institution supporting an occupation which had "dehumanising effects" and deprived Palestinians of access to education.
Two SRC representatives were expected to attend the senate meeting taking place at the university's Soweto campus on Wednesday afternoon.
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.
Supports Israeli occupation
"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."
Israel National News online, however, said 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".
According to the report the university was a "hotbed for left-wing and Bedouin activists whose views are non-Zionist".
BGU officials were reportedly "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," Israel National News quoted BGU officials as saying.