South African UKZN cancels Monday’s Israeli lecture

By Daily News Reporter

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has cancelled a lecture on Monday by Israeli”s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein.

The decision was made by UKZN”s deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, on Sunday afternoon after coming under pressure from student organisations and academic staff to cancel Finkelstein”s lecture.

“I have reconsidered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli Deputy Ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, 21 May 2012,” Ayee said in an email sent to staff on Sunday.

“[The Israeli ambassador will bring] likely reputational damage for the institution [which] is not in the interest of all of us.”

Ayee”s announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the “academic boycott” of Israel. Palestinians issued a call in 2005 for a programme of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it “abided by international law and basic human rights”.

Early last year, the University of Johannesburg became the world”s first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relationship with Israel”s Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SASCO), have publicly backed the BDS call.

UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi, said: “This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with…”

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