One of South Africa’s most prominent universities has announced that it will cut all financial and academic ties with Israel’s largest university, Ben Gurion University, due to Ben Gurion University’s ‘collaboration with military, occupation and apartheid practices.’The decision to join the academic boycott, which was called by Palestinian academics in 2005, came just one week after a group of academics from across South Africa published a report called “Findings on Ben-Gurion University of the Negev: Institutional Complicity and Active Collaboration with Israeli Military, Occupation and Apartheid Practices.”
The two universities had partnered in a water research project, and some Israeli critics have claimed that South Africa’s water quality will suffer as a result of the boycott.
But University of Johannesburg Deputy Vice Chancellor Adam Habib challenged that claim, saying, “There has been quite a lot of scare mongering that if the partnership breaks, South Africa will be confined to bad water quality. The quality of our water is suffering because we are not spending the type of money on cleaning water that we need to, and not employing skill sets required. We can deal with acid rain water in the region if we are prepared to spend money.”
The South African University joins hundreds of other universities, colleges, trade unions and churches worldwide, including South Africa’s largest trade union, COSATU, which have divested economically and boycotted Israeli institutions and companies involved in the military occupation of Palestinian land.
The boycott is aimed at pressuring Israel to adhere to its obligations under international law and past signed agreements, to end its occupation of Palestinian land, and to provide equal rights for Palestinians.
Organizers of the boycott have compared the movement to the anti-apartheid efforts of the 1970s and 80s, which eventually helped bring an end to the race-based political system in South Africa that discriminated against the indigenous African population to privilege the white minority that had immigrated there from Europe. South African activists have been at the forefront of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel for its discriminatory policies and practices toward Palestinians.