By Anees Teladia
The University of Cape Town (UCT) has called for more consultation on the proposed academic boycott of Israeli institutions, amid concerns around the potential impact on the university. On Saturday, UCT’s council chose not to adopt a resolution on the formal adoption of policies which would see the university implement an Israeli academic boycott – citing the need for a “full assessment of the sustainability impact”.
The proposal was received by the UCT council, having been passed by the senate with 62 in favour, 43 against and 10 abstentions. Despite this, the council has resolved to refer the matter back to senate whilst maintaining their firm resolve to:
• Reaffirm commitment to supporting the rights and freedom of all people as universally recognised under international law;
• Condemn any acts that violate those rights and freedoms;
• Condemn the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and elsewhere in the world;
• Call on all academics and academic institutions to support this resolution;
• Reaffirm UCT’s commitment to academic freedom but reserve the right to dissociate itself from those academics and academic institutions that support (directly or indirectly) the violation of human rights and /or enable the violation of human rights.
While the decision is not a resounding win for the Palestinian cause, both Palestinian solidarity movements and pro-zionist organisations have claimed victory.
Head of UCT’s Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF), Alex Hotz told VOC Breakfast Beat that whilst this may not have been the desired outcome, the result was not a loss.
“Our original proposal for an academic boycott was slightly altered by the Academic Freedom Committee of the university, which made it broader and not as clear as ours. But it was an academic boycott,” said Hotz.
“I don’t think we should look at the council’s vote and decision on Saturday as a loss. It is a victory for Palestine and an academic boycott. The task now, is for us to make clearer what the academic boycott will encompass.”
Hotz also suggests that lobbying has played a significant role in the resolution of UCT’s council and that the future of UCT was made to seem dependent on zionist support.
“I think there’s no doubt that there are a lot of different voices on the university council and there’s been a lot of lobbying by Israeli sympathizers and the zionist lobby,” said Hotz.
“The picture that is painted is a very stark and apocalyptic picture of how money and funding would be pulled from the university.”
In a statement released by the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), a list of possible “ramifications” were provided if UCT were to adopt the proposal.
The SAZF believes the senate will have to consider the ramifications that such action would have upon the university.
“These [ramifications] include the erosion of academic freedom at UCT, permanent reputational damage, a fall in international university rankings, the loss of quality students and academics wishing to pursue their work without restriction, the risk of counter-boycott measures by international universities, and the perception that UCT is not a friendly place for Jewish students. Importantly, it would prevent UCT from accessing world-leading water, agricultural, medical and scientific technology developed at Israeli institutions that could be used to benefit all South Africans,” the SAZF said in the statement.
According to an email distributed by the Palestinian Solidarity Forum deputy chairperson, Thavish Chetty, “UCT’s council has sent the proposal back to senate to determine which offending Israeli universities UCT should dissociate from”.
“There is a strong indication, however, in council’s condemnation of Israel’s human rights violations, that UCT must dissociate with all those Israeli universities operating in, and contributing to, the violation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
“We do not understand the council’s logic of sending the decision back to senate when senate has already voted to sanction all Israeli universities operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and all Israeli universities enabling the violation of human rights. We urge senate to reaffirm its decision to sanction these universities engaged in the violation of human rights.”
- [Image Source: Facebook – University of Cape Town]