In its efforts to undermine the State of Israel, South Africa’s premier university may well be undermining itself.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) is South Africa’s oldest university. Established in 1829, it maintained a proud tradition of academic excellence, but these days it is making international news branding stupidity, rather than excellence.
On March 30, 2019, the Council of the University of Cape Town (UCT) declined to adopt a resolution by its Senate on an Israeli boycott and sent it back requesting clarification before the resolution could go to a vote, notably:
- “a full assessment of the sustainability impact” and
- “more consultative process was necessary before the matter could be considered any further”.
This issue has now gone global as alumni across the world from Australia and Hong Kong to the UK, Israel , Canada and the USA – many of them donors and potential donors – have submitted their thoughts of some of the ramifications and repercussions that UCT would face if it decided to implement an Israeli academic boycott in any form.
They have responded to the call by UCT Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng for UCT stakeholders (including staff, students, alumni, and donors) to submit their views online on the proposed academic boycott of Israel by no later than Friday 21 June.
Many of the submissions have drawn attention that a boycott would cause:
- “A major decrease in donor support, including contributions towards funding bursaries.”
- “Irreparable harm to the principle of academic freedom”
- “A loss in reputation and credibility for UCT as the leading university in Africa.”
- “A sense that Jewish students and academics may feel uncomfortable at a university that has severed ties with their Jewish, spiritual and religious homeland.”
- “A concern that past degrees and certifications of the university will fail to enjoy international recognition.”
- “A restriction in UCT’s ability to work with other international institutions and the subsequent degradation in its academic work.”
- “A loss of potential outstanding students who will chose to study elsewhere.”
One of the many alumni submitting their views is a contributor to LOTL, Adv. Charles Abelsohn, and who has a BA from UCT, a LLB from the Univ of Stellenbosch and a B.Com Hons from UNISA.
18 June 2019
Totally opposed to resolution proposed by the Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF).
No expertise or evidence supporting the Resolution
There are no details on the expertise or knowledge of PSF on the Israel – Arab conflict. Declarations of support for one party are not proof of expertise on the conflict.
The resolution contains no definition of the alleged “gross human rights violations“. Instituting a boycott based on generalizations and/or declarations is not academic and not worthy of an academic institution such as UCT.
PSF has not provided any facts or evidence to the Senate supporting allegations of “gross human rights violations” by Israel generally or specifically by Israeli academic institutions.
Let`s all agree that the most important human right is the right to healthcare and life. According to the CIA factbook:
Life Expectancy: The West Bank is in 92nd place with 76 years. South Africa, in 191th place with 63 years.
Infant mortality rate: The West Bank is in 120th place with a rate of 14.6. South Africa, in 162nd place with an infant mortality rate of 32.
South Africa`s gross human rights violations regarding healthcare are worse than the West Bank and are amongst the worst in the world.
Israel`s ‘Save a Child’s Heart’ organization has performed heart surgery on nearly 5,000 Third World children since it was started over 20 years ago, including more than 2,000 from the West Bank and Gaza and 300 from Iraq and Syria. Does this constitute a gross human violation? There is no South African equivalent.
More “gross human rights violations” by Israel are treating Palestinian leaders, and their families as well as, in 2018, 20,000 Palestinians in Israeli hospitals. Approximately 1,975 Palestinian physicians participated in medical trainings in Israel in a variety of fields, such as: AIDS, women’s health care and cancer.
Healthcare: PSF has not shown any Israeli “gross human rights violations”.
Under Jordan`s illegal occupancy of the West Bank (1948-1967), no universities were allowed in the West Bank. Israel established the first university in the West Bank in 1971 – another “gross human rights violation”.
The PSF has not shown any Israeli academic “gross human rights violations”; On the contrary – the leader of BDS studied at an Israeli university. Omar Barghouti, a founder of BDS, a citizen of Qatar, with a Master`s degree from Columbia (USA) studied for his PH D at Tel Aviv University!
Martha Pollack, Cornell University president’s reply to a proposal for boycott: “Cornell is an educational institution, and its primary purpose is to further the education of students through our teaching, research and engagement mission. Cornell is not primarily an agent to direct social or political action. BDS unfairly singles out one country in the world for sanction when there are many countries around the world whose governments’ policies may be viewed as controversial.”
Professor Cary Nelson, past president of the American Association of University Professors has written a book: Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, and the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State (Indiana University Press).
Nelson takes a skeptical view of BDS. Many BDS people say their goal is to rebuke Israel and persuade it to improve the treatment of Palestinians. Nelson, having examined the words of BDS leaders in depth, believes they are in fact working toward the collapse of Israel. UCT, please take note:
All ten chancellors in the University of California system have reaffirmed their opposition to the academic boycott of Israel. In a statement, the chancellors said their “commitment to continued engagement and partnership with Israeli, as well as Palestinian colleagues, colleges, and universities is unwavering.” The boycott of Israeli universities and scholars “poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty”.
President Melvin Oliver of Pitzer College in Claremont, California, vetoed a faculty vote to end an exchange programme with Haifa University, saying it is plain wrong, discriminatory and inconsistent to boycott Israel so long as Pitzer, along with many other American colleges, “promotes exchanges and study abroad in countries with significant human rights abuses.” “China, for example, has killed, tortured and imprisoned up to 1 million people in Tibet and utterly obliterated the Tibetan nation. China currently has 1 million Muslims imprisoned in ‘re-education’ camps. Why would we not suspend our program with China?”
One definition of anti-Semitism is singling out Jews or Israel to be punished for supposed but unproven actions that have been documented on a much larger or much more brutal scale in many other countries. UCT, for example, has not considered voting to boycott Saudi Arabia for its state-sanctioned assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi or Iran for the execution of homosexuals or the Palestinians for preventing free speech and assembly, never mind China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria`s 500,000 deaths or Brunei`s death by stoning for homosexuals.
PSF has not shown why, worldwide, only Israeli academic institutions need to be boycotted for “gross human rights violations”.
European Union Cooperation with Israeli Universities
The European Union and Israel enjoy scientific cooperation under the Horizon 2020 programme. Grants have been awarded to 1062 Israeli projects from the beginning of the programme until the end of 2018. Israeli universities and research institutes can be found among the top 10 countries, worldwide, hosting projects. There is no EU boycott of Israel`s universities. There are no South African academic institutions participating in the EU programme.
Europe: PSF has not shown why Europe is wrong to cooperate intensively with Israeli academia despite Israel`s alleged “gross human rights violations”.
Proposed Resolution for UCT: UCT hereby resolves to deepen, not boycott or limit, its association with Israeli universities, for its own benefit and that of its students.