University of Johannesburg Upholds Academic Boycott of Israel

09 July 2011

The UJ Petition Committee views with contempt attempts by the pro-Israeli lobby to mislead the public by implying that the University of Johannesburg has reinstated its old Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU). In fact, the decision to terminate UJ”s institutional agreement with BGU was reaffirmed in a recent follow-up meeting of Senate on 22 June 2011.

The UJ Petition Committee confirms that yesterday”s signing of an individual agreement by Bhekie Mamba of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) does not violate UJ”s academic boycott of Israel.

Yesterday”s agreement, signed by an individual scientist at UJ with several other individual researchers, including one at BGU, is consistent with UJ”s “ban” on institutional relationships with Israel. The agreement, as per academic boycott guidelines, is not an institutional relationship.

UJ is the first university in the world to officially implement the academic boycott of Israel. The individual agreement signed yesterday reconfirms UJ”s historic decision to boycott Israel. UJ”s Senate should be commended for withstanding the immense pressure put on it by the pro-Israeli lobby to reinstate the old institutional agreement.

Over a period of more than 12 months staff and students together with the UJ Petition Committee successfully campaigned for the severing of UJ”s formal institutional agreement with Israel”s BGU. The UJ Petition is supported by over 400 South African academics, including Professors John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Breyten Breytenbach, Allan Boesak, and the late Kader Asmal.

Find a copy of UJ”s official Senate Resolution on the matter at:


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PRESS RELEASE 09 July 2011

UJ Senator – UJ’s “boycott” of Israel stands

Misleading reports in the Israeli media have suggested that the University of Johannesburg has reinstated its old Memorandum of Understanding with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).

As a representative on the University of Johannesburg Senate, its highest decision-making body, and a member of its Senate Academic Freedom Committee, I confirm that UJ”s decision to terminate its institutional relationship with BGU remains.

On 23 March this year, in a widely publicized decision, UJ”s Senate resolved to terminate – and not merely allow to “lapse” – its institutional agreement with BGU. The termination of the agreement was the result of BGU”s failure to comply with conditions set by the university – including BGU”s refusal to end its links with the Israeli military. This decision, based on the “principle of solidarity with the oppressed”, was the result of a twelve month democratic and transparent consultative process. The campaign for UJ to sever its Israeli links included the support of Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and over 400 prominent South African academics.

In line with the principle of academic freedom, UJ”s Senate affirmed that individual researchers may continue research relations in their individual capacity, without institutional partnering. Thus Bheki Mamba, an individual scientist from UJ, was allowed to enter into an individual agreement to participate in a water research study with researchers from several universities, including one from BGU.

The claims in the Israeli media that an institutional contract has been revived is false and reflects a desperate, and pathetic, attempt to counter Israel”s increasing isolation. There has been no revival of institutional ties between UJ and BGU. In fact, the decision to terminate UJ”s agreement with BGU was reaffirmed in a very recent Senate meeting (22 June 2011) when it unanimously adopted the minutes of its earlier Senate meeting, parts of which read as follows:

“Senate voted by 60% to 37% to uphold its earlier resolution (circular 2010/59) on the matter.”

“Senate reaffirms the rights of UJ academics to pursue research projects without formal institutional agreements”

Find a copy of UJ”s official Senate Resolution on the matter at:

In addition, this morning UJ”s Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation, Professor Adam Habib, confirmed that Bhekie Mamba’s agreement is not an institutional one but “is an agreement where two researchers have decided to continue their research. UJ, as part of its commitment to Academic Freedom, has opted not to oppose Mamba”s project”.

In the course of this very public debate at UJ, which resulted in the termination of its relationship with Israel”s BGU, the university specifically and academic freedom in general, have faced enormous pressure and threats from exceptionally wealthy individuals in the hospitality and banking industries. The affirmation of the rights of individual academics to pursue their research must be accompanied by a fierce denunciation of the very private assault by capital on academic freedom and democratic processes at the academy.


Farid Esack (Prof)
A Ring, 607 Kingsway Campus
University of Johannesburg
Auckland Park, 2006
Ph + 27 (0) 83 45 99989
Fax + 27 (0) 11 559 3858

*Farid Esack is a member on the University of Johannesburg”s Senate and a member of the Senate Academic Freedom Committee. The Senate Academic Freedom Committee is the official university body mandated to assess all UJ”s international agreements. He writes in his personal capacity.

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