University of Johannesburg: Cancel Relationship with Ben-Gurion University!

International academics are invited to sign the petition from the University of Johannesburg, calling for an end to the university’s relationship with Ben-Gurion University( The UJ Petition was initiated late last year by South African academics, who have now asked for international support. USACBI has endorsed this petition, has has PACBI, COSATU (the Congress of South African Trade Unions) and numerous prominent South African and international academics.

The petition is in support of the campaign being led by academics and students at the University of Johannesburg (UJ): calling on UJ to cancel its relationship with the Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU). This is on the grounds of BGU’s active support and collaboration with the Israeli military and occupation.

To date over 300 prominent South African academics have signed the UJ Petition including some of our country’s leading voices: Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Alan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog and Wilhelm Verwoerd. The campaign has received the full support and backing from Vice-
Chancellors of three SA universities: Professors Barney Pityana (Universityof South Africa), Derrick Swartz (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) and Saleem Badat (Rhodes University). Furthermore, Nobel Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote this open letter to UJ:

On the 23rd of March 2011 UJ’s Senate will meet to finalize this matter. The UJ Petition has become an important statement on the issue – and in the run up to the final decision, the voice of international academics will assist enormously. International academics can lend their support by replying to this email or by sending their name, title, designation and institutional affiliation to As a member of the international academic community, their name will be added in a “support” category next to the list of SA signatories.

All endorsements will include the standard disclaimer: “Institutional names are for identification purposes only”

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.

For reasons explained below and detailed in the attached Fact Sheet, we wish to add our voices to those calling for the suspension of UJ”s agreement with BGU.
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 Defence 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 airforce 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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