By Tamutswa Mahari
On Tuesday, 17 March, 2017 the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum (UCT PSF) published their petition to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions within UCT. This petition follows a long demand for the boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions from not only UCT, but across universities within South Africa. The boycott consists of demands for UCT to, “commit itself to reject and boycott any academic relationship with Israel such as academic events convened or co-sponsored by Israel and study abroad schemes in Israel for international students”.
The goal of this academic boycott is in line with those of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, a global campaign attempting to increase economic and political pressure on Israel to comply with ending Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land and the Golan Heights, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and acknowledgement of the right of return of Palestinian refugees. UCT PSF, through the words of their chairperson, has laid emphasis on the fact that their boycott does not exclude or prejudice individuals’ academics.
On 27 August 2014, Max Price wrote a letter to the university’s alumni which showed that UCT as an institution was unable to support the mission of the UCT PSF and the Student Representative Council and stated that “UCT will not support any form of academic boycott, whether against Israel or anyone else” although he honed in on the fact that “UCT uphold[s] the rights of individual academics and students to do so and will facilitate the promotion of all views and serious debate”.
This response to previous efforts to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions within UCT leaves a pending anxiety to the response that will follow the current petition which follows three years later. The Chairperson of UCT PSF 2017 has voiced this concern in an interview with Varsity Newspaper stating that, “UCT administration has placed many obstacles in our way throughout our efforts to boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.”
In a declaration published on their Facebook page, the SAUJS UCT said they “strongly support the principle of academic freedom at UCT. This includes the rights of Israeli academics and institutions, which contain a diverse mix of Jewish, Muslim, Christian and other academics, to have their academic research shared, discussed and debated freely and openly at UCT, and for them to be able to participate freely in the academic discourse at the institution. We do not support any motion that restricts the freedom of academic inquiry by unfairly targeting and discriminating against one state for political reasons.” This opinion, which echoes the standpoint of UCT, has been deemed hypocritical by the UCT PSF.
As of Tuesday, 21 March 2017, the petition had reached 593 of the set goal of 600 signatures. For more information on the petition, the UCT PSF, and the BDSM follow the links below: