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Prominent SA human rights centre withdraws from Israeli conference

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The human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa said it welcomes the withdrawal by the Centre of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) from an upcoming conference in Israel. The prominent South African human rights organization, the CSVR, was scheduled to participate at the upcoming International Network of Genocide Scholars (INoGS) conference at Israel’s Hebrew University between the 26th and 29th of June 2016.

On Wednesday, CSVR wrote to the organisers saying it decided to withdraw its participation from the conference as it had “failed to carefully consider the ramifications” of its participation.

“CSVR is an organisation dedicated to promoting social justice, sustainable peace and human rights. Our work is dedicated to supporting victims of violence, and working with those assisting victims of torture and other human rights in South Africa and across the globe. While we saw the INoGS conference as an opportunity to share our work and learn from other, we cannot turn a blind eye to the nature of the location and the host institutions for the conference. Serious concerns about these issues have been raised by Palestinian human rights groups,” it stated in the letter.

Earlier this week BDS South Africa reached out to the CSVR urging the organisation to reconsider its participation in the Israeli hosted conference. In its letter to the CSVR, BDS said Palestinians have made a clear call on the conference to cancel the event at Israel’s Hebrew University. The advocacy group said Israeli universities hosting or sponsoring this conference are intimately connected to and complicit in the Israeli state’s inhuman treatment of Palestinians and the ongoing colonisation of Palestinian land

“It is extremely disappointing that scholars and academics from South Africa (a country that has experienced the harmful and painful consequences of discrimination, racism and segregation) who are involved in the study of genocide and mass violence may be participants in an event that is directly connected to a state that continues its policy of discrimination, violence and dispossession towards the Palestinians.” BDS wrote.

“As fellow South Africans we request that you honour the ethical dimension of your scholarly work and take a stand in supporting justice and affirming the humanity and struggles of those people who are subject to mental and physical violence, discrimination, movement restrictions, dispossession and outright oppression. We humbly ask you to withdraw your participation in a conference that is not only associated with institutions that are complicit in gross human rights violations and the violation of international law but that also serves to break the Palestinian call for cultural and academic boycotts.”

The hosting of the INoGS conference in Israel has come under heavy criticism. Last month, in line with the academic boycott of Israel, over 250 academics from more than 19 countries issued a public call for a boycott of the conference.

“We call on other participants to also take a principled position, withdraw participation and boycott the Israeli hosted INoGS conference in line with the call from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI),” concluded BDS.

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