Thursday, September 30, 2010
University of Johannesburg rejects boycot of Ben Gurion Uni, but not completely
University of Johannesburg professors rejected calls to sever ties with an Israeli university on Wednesday, but called on Ben-Gurion University to work with its Palestinian counterparts, the South African daily Mail and Guardian reports.
Calls for similar academic boycotts to protest Israel's Palestinian policies also have failed in the West.
The South African university's faculty senate met on Wednesday to vote on the proposal, which had been endorsed by anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but instead accepted a compromise without a vote. They asked Ben-Gurion University to work with Palestinian universities on research projects, and to start the collaborations within six months if it wanted to maintain ties with the University of Johannesburg.
UJ Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib said the compromise reflected his institution's values.
"We believe in reconciliation," Habib said. "We'd like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone."
The universities have joint research projects and academic exchanges on biotechnology and water purification.
Relations between Ben-Gurion University and Rand Afrikaans University, a formerly all-white university under South Africa's apartheid system, began in 1987. The University of Johannesburg, created in 2005, took over various campuses including Rand Afrikaans University and a university in the black township of Soweto as part of efforts to ensure higher education was transformed with the rest of South Africa after the end of apartheid.
Israel officially opposed apartheid, but its ties with the white government were seen as close. South Africa's post-apartheid government has been a sharp critic of Israel's Palestinian policies. The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was among the guests at Nelson Mandela's 1994 inauguration as South Africa's first black president.
Tutu and more than 200 prominent South African academics had supported ending UJ's links with the Israeli institution.