PRESS RELEASE – SA UNIVERSITY: Conditional termination with Israeli institution

29 September 2010

This afternoon, after what was described as a “most tense” Senate

meeting, UJ”s highest academic body voted to conditionally end its

Apartheid-era relationship with Ben-Gurion University (BGU). A

fact-finding investigation conducted by the University confirmed BGU”s

links with the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and complicity in the

Israeli occupation.

Against the backdrop of a significant public campaign, these findings

confirm the facts presented in a nationwide academic petition, which

has been supported by over 250 South African academics

( The petition has been backed by Vice-Chancellors

from four universities, and prominent leaders such as Breyten

Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana, Kader Asmal and

Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The overwhelming support of respected South African voices has

highlighted the structural complicity of Israeli universities in the

occupation and, as a result, the decision by UJ emphasises the

necessity for South African universities to reconsider their

affiliations to Israeli institutions.

Accepting the recommendations of the report, UJ has committed itself

to end any research or teaching relationship with BGU that has direct

or indirect military links; or in instances where human rights abuses

are identified. If BGU violates any of the conditions agreed on by

Senate or UJ”s stated principles, which include “solidarity with any

oppressed population”, the relationship will be terminated

automatically after 6 months. Further, Senate has recognised the

necessity for the University to engage with Palestinian universities

and has made this a requirement for interaction with the Israeli


Whilst the decision marks an unprecedented development towards the

complete boycott of Israel by South Africa, UJ”s decision goes only

part of the way in meeting the demands raised by the petitioners –

which was to insist that Israel must abide by international law and

that BGU terminates all privileges extended to the IDF. With this

milestone in the academic boycott of Israel, the campaign for boycott

will persist in taking these gains forward.


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Media release:


The Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has voted not to
continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU)
in Israel in its present form and has set conditions for the
relationship to continue.

The conditions are that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
governing the relationship between the two institutions be amended to
include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of
UJ. These universities are to be consulted on the terms of the amended
MoU and UJ will consider their views.

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 UJ Senate also requests BGU to “respect UJ”s duty to take
seriously allegations of behaviour on the part of BGU”s stakeholders
that is incompatible with UJ”s values” and calls on BGU to respond to
reasonable requests from UJ seeking more information about “BGU”s
formal policies and informal practices”.

Should the conditions imposed by UJ not be met within six months, the
MoU between the two institutions will automatically lapse on 1 April

It will also lapse if there are any violations of UJ”s stated
principles, which the Senate task team outlines as “solidarity with
any oppressed population” and that UJ”s engagement with BGU and other
institutions in the region must “encourage reconciliation and the
advancement of human dignity and human solidarity”.

The Senate vote still has to be ratified by the Council of the
University, but BGU and its advocacy group in South Africa will be
notified of the task team”s findings and the Senate vote by Professor
Ihron Rensburg, Vice-Chancellor of UJ.

The Senate action is the result of findings by a task team established
at a special meeting of the university Senate on 17 May where some
members of the University”s highest academic body proposed to sever
the current Memorandum of Understanding between UJ and BGU because of
alleged incompatibility between BGU”s practices and UJ”s central

After hearing representations, the Senate decided to form a task team
that would put its mind to the issues raised and make a recommendation
to the Senate on how to respond to the proposal to sever links with

The committee, which was headed by Professor Adam Habib,
Vice-Chancellor: Research, Innovation and Advancement at UJ, was
evenly divided between advocates for termination of links and those in
favour of continued conditional engagement.

“The committee met five times with a view to finding a principled
common ground on which a recommendation to Senate could be advanced,”
says Professor Habib. “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.”

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