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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Boycott: U of Johannesburg voted to allow its formal relationship with BGU to lapse on 1 April 2011

Boycott News: The Senate of the U of Johannesburg voted to allow its formal relationship with BGU to lapse on 1 April 2011

Three articles:


UJ Senate votes on Ben-Gurion partnership 

In a protracted and spirited debate, the Senate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) today voted to allow its formal relationship with Ben-Gurion University (BGU) in Israel to lapse on 1 April 2011.

This was one of two options put to the vote in the Senate, the second being to allow the formal relationship with BGU to continue and to develop bilateral relations with both BGU and Palestinian universities.

Sixty percent of the Senate (72 members present) voted to allow the Memorandum of Understanding with BGU to lapse, while the balance 40 percent (45 members present ) voted for bilateral agreements.

The Senate vote effectively upholds an earlier resolution that placed conditions on its continued relationships with BGU, among them the inclusion of Palestinian university partners.

Today’s Senate vote does not preclude individual academics from UJ, BGU or any Palestinian university from any academic collaboration. The Senate vote encourages academics at UJ, BGU and Palestinian universities to pursue research projects without formal institutional agreements.

Herman Esterhuizen

Coordinator: Media Relations  
Division of Institutional Advancement 
University of Johannesburg                                                                   
Tel:          +27 11 559-6653
Cell:         + 27 72 129 0777
Email:      hermane@uj.ac.za


Related articles




“Damning” report on University of Johannesburg’s relations with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University

Today, a fact-finding report commissioned on the University of Johannesburg’s relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU) was released. The report, titled, “The UJ-BGU Report”, is attached to this media release and can be accessed at www.ujpetition.com.

The UJ-BGU Report reveals “damning” evidence of BGU’s active collaboration with the Israeli military, its discriminatory practices, contributions to human rights abuses and suppression of academic freedom.

The report will form part of a discussion at a joint Amnesty International and University of Johannesburg seminar on Wednesday, 16 March at 15h30 (UJ  Council Chambers Conference Room, Kingsway Campus, Johannesburg).

Early in 2010 members of UJ’s academic, worker and student community called on their university to end its Apartheid-era relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU). The call stemmed from BGU’s direct support and active collaboration with the Israeli military and illegal occupation.

Subsequently, on 29 September 2010, UJ’s Senate (its highest decision-making body) imposed certain conditions on BGU that have to be met by the 01st of April 2011 – or else face automatic termination of relations. These conditions include inter alia the addition of a Palestinian University into the current UJ-BGU agreement; as well as a requirement that the UJ-BGU relationship “will not entail any activity, including teaching and research, which has any direct or indirect military implications or contributes to the abuse of human rights.”

In light of UJ’s Senate Resolution, members of the UJ Petition Committee undertook an investigation into UJ’s links with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.  The resulting 45-page report represents 6 months of research and constitutes a broad overview of BGU’s practices in relation to the Israeli Defense Force (IDF), Israel’s illegal occupation, discriminatory practices and the suppression of academic freedom.

Documenting detailed, factual evidence and information regarding BGU’s direct and indirect role in further entrenching the violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli state, the report is divided into four parts.

Part 1 of the report exposes BGU’s ongoing, deliberate and wide-ranging support for the Israeli military and illegal occupation, including participation in programs specifically sponsored by and benefiting the IDF. For example, through its technology transfer company, BGU has an ongoing partnership with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd (“Rafael”). Rafael ‘develops and produces state-of-the-art armaments for the IDF and Israel’s defense system’. This is just one of many collaborations highlighted by the report.

Part 2 of the report documents the manner in which BGU conspicuously and actively supports attempts by the Israeli Government to curb academic freedom and dissenting voices on Israeli University campuses.  In light of the current dangers posed to academic freedom through Israeli state measures such as the widely-condemned Prohibition on Instituting a Boycott Bill, the report reveals a concerning institutional position adopted by BGU. For example, BGU’s Senate recently reviewed its Code of Ethics and has instituted an effective prohibition on lecturers; preventing them from voicing their political opinions during classes, as well as referencing their university titles when speaking publicly (including via oped articles and news items) about politics or their personal opinions.

Part 3 deals directly with the controversial water research project that is the subject of the agreement between UJ and BGU. The findings of the report demonstrate how the research supported and undertaken by BGU forms part of an intricate nexus which supports and entrenches the discriminatory policies on water availability consumption within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Furthermore, the partners that BGU chooses for its water research, like the Jewish National Fund and the Arava Institute, are themselves involved in activities that undermine human rights.

Finally, Part 4 of the report analyzes and systematically uncovers how BGU not only mirrors Israeli discriminatory policies and practices, but actively reinforces its exclusions and differential treatment, particularly through preferential treatment for military enlisted students.

The findings of the investigation demonstrate the multi-faceted support which BGU actively nurtures and thereby furthers the policies of the Israeli state and its violation of human rights. On the basis of these findings, the report concludes that there is a clear failure by BGU to meet the criteria established by the UJ Senate Resolution.

BGU’s practices and policies, the report concludes, are incompatible with UJ’s values.

The report has been tabled by the University of Johannesburg’s Senate, which will meet on Wednesday the 23rd of March 2011. All signs indicate that BGU has not met the conditions imposed on it by UJ and that relations will terminate.

Furthermore, these findings call into question any relationships that other institutions currently engaging with BGU may have.

The call for ending of relations has been supported by a petition of more than 350 prominent South African academics, including: Kader Asmal, Breyten Breytenbach, Alan Boesak, Antjie Krog, Mahmood Mamdani, Barney Pityana, Sampie Terreblanche and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (www.ujpetition.com). Last week NEHAWU, and a day later COSATU, came out in full support and backing of the campaign.

Download the report here



Palestinian Students at Israeli Universities | 14 March 2011

Palestinian Students in Israeli Universities Call on University of Johannesburg to Terminate Cooperation with Israeli Universities

We are Arab Palestinian students at Israeli universities who wish to express our support to the call made by the University of Johannesburg’s Student Representative Council, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and more than 300 South African academics on UJ to terminate its cooperation with Ben-Gurion University. We believe that the boycott is timely and will consolidate the upholding of moral values such as fairness, justice and equality, which have been sorely missed in our region. Needless to say, this belief stems from, and at times proudly echoes, the long and consistent struggle South Africans continue to wage against the former racist regime of apartheid and its scars. As stated by the letter by UJ SRC on March 7th, a decision by UJ to terminate its relationship with Ben-Gurion University would constitute a “landmark in the international movement to boycott Israeli institutions until such time as the state abides by international law.”[1]

We would like to propose through this letter our angle which affirms the need for boycott, namely our daily experience as Palestinians in Israeli institutions. We are the lucky ones who have been able to pursue our studies in institutions of higher learning, to which we arrived against great odds. Only very few among our generation have been qualified to attend universities due to state’s discriminatory policies. Our schools mostly lack the basic facilities needed for education, and the curriculum is structured to serve the State’s goal in socializing the pupils for self-estrangement. It contains very little, if any at all, on our history and culture. Additionally it aims to erase our historical memory and promote the official policy line of divide and rule. In short it is modeled on curriculums that dark regimes have used to indoctrinate rather than educate. We arrive to universities with this “educational” baggage.

The idea that Israeli universities adhere to the values of free academic institutions, where academic freedom, objectivity and meritocracy prevail is widely accepted in the West. From our experience we attest – and indeed prove beyond doubt - that this is not the case. In recent years Israeli universities have changed the criteria of acceptance to various faculties in order - as one president of Israeli university put it - to prevent large number of undesirable [i.e. Arab] students from attending prestigious faculties such as medicine and natural sciences. Moreover, lecturers who presented findings which are at odd with the official ideology – such as Ilan Pappéand Neve Gordon – are bullied and harassed or forced to resign. Meanwhile raw racist statements by many lecturers are considered by the authorities of the universities as benign or even objective statements. For example recently Dr. Dan Scheuftan stated in one of his lectures: “The Arabs are the biggest failure in the history of the human race... there’s nothing under the sun that’s more screwed up than the Palestinians”; Throughout the Arab world, people fire guns at weddings in order to prove that they have at least one thing that’s hard and in working order that can shoot.” [2] It goes without saying that none of these lecturers has ever been disciplined. 

Although some Israeli universities pride themselves of promoting “co-existence”, yet nothing is further from the truth than this. We are prevented from forming our [i.e. Arab] students’ union, and racist discrimination against us – under the pretext of not serving in the army – is widely practiced in the granting of scholarships, as well as, in the provision of housing at the universities’ residential halls[3]. This is particularly grave as the universities are located in Jewish towns and Arab students face many obstacles and hardships in finding appropriate housing due to prevailing prejudices and anti-Arab sentiments in Israeli society.

Yet, the restrictions imposed on our freedom of expression are more stifling. We are not allowed to express our collective sentiments or ideas publicly. It is quite often that our public gatherings are not only violently interrupted by extreme right wing Jewish students, but also in various occasions the universities called on the police to intervene. Moreover, the universities collaborate with the internal security services (the feared Shin Bet) and provide it with names of the activists among the students who regularly summoned, investigated and threatened. 

In the end we are hopeful that you will take a decision which reaffirm the true meaning of human values, and provide a proof that racism, cynicism, obfuscation and disregard of human dignity are no longer tolerated.


Student Chapter of Abnaa al-Balad Movement

Student Chapter of the National Democratic Assembly (ND



[1] Tel Aviv University Review, “In Defense of the Nation,” Winter
2008-2009. Tel Aviv University: Marketing and Donor Relations
Department, 2009.
video of the police aggression towards the students:
photos from protest, showing the brutal treatment of the police:

[1] UJ SRC, “UJ SRC supports the right to education of Palestinian students,” 7 March 2011. Available online at http://www.ujpetition.com/2011/03/uj-src-supports-right-to-education-of.html.

[2] Article Studies in Racism by Sara Leibovitz-Dar published in Maariv, 21 of October 2009


[3] Press Release published by Adalah Haifa District Court Issues Precedent-Setting Judgment that Considering Military Service Criterion in Allocation of Housing at Haifa University Discriminates Against Arab Students  


Posted on 17-03-2011


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