University of Cape Town debates academic and cultural boycotts of Israel

Demonstrators march through the streets of Cape Town against the Israeli-Palestinian conflict August 9, 2014.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Africa’s top university, the University of Cape Town, is debating a proposed academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

The proposal was put forward by the Palestine Solidarity Forum, which has called on UCT to implement an academic boycott of Israeli universities. “This academic boycott would require that UCT reject forming any institutional ties with Israeli universities,” the PSF wrote.

“The rationale for this call is clear – Palestinian human rights are violated by Israel on a daily basis with the direct and indirect support from Israeli universities… By implementing an academic boycott, UCT takes a principled position in the defense of human rights and academic freedom,” The group claimed.

The matter has been raised for discussion at the UCT Academic Freedom Committee. The committee, however, is only able to make recommendations to the university for consideration by the UCT senate and council, it does not have the authority to make binding decisions on behalf of the school.

Klaas Mokgomole, a member of Africans for Peace, said the idea of boycott is taking the focus away from real issues.

“First of all, we have very important issues in South Africa that are burning and need urgent attention,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“For example, we are busy fighting for free, quality and decolonized education. That is why we had the ‘#FeesMustFall’ movement in the past two years. We need the government to work together with institutions of higher learning. The boycott is trying to sway the black students’ focus from real issues that affect them in South Africa.

“This will lead to a cut in funding, and more and more black and underprivileged students will suffer the consequence. It is actually very selfish to suggest such a boycott. This kind of a suggested motion is very anti-black and it cannot be allowed to carry on,” Mokgomole said.

“Africans for Peace is about bring two parties to the table and have a dialogue. We need to be promoting peace in the Middle East, not boycotts. Boycotts have not helped so far, however, promoting dialogue will help,” he stressed.

Asked how a boycott might affect relations between Israel and South Africa, Mokgomole said ties between the two countries “are very strong.”

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