Campaigners attack Johannesburg Uni's Israel links

By Moira Schneider and Marcus Dysch, March 17, 2011
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Campaigners encouraging the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to break its ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University (BGU) have released a "damning" report of the relationship between the institutions.

The report documents what it calls BGU's "direct and indirect role in further entrenching the violations of human rights and international law by the Israeli state".

It claims BGU partners develop arms for the IDF and that the university "conspicuously and actively supports Israeli government attempts to curb academic freedom and dissenting voices on Israeli university campuses".

UJ academics and students encouraged the university to cut its ties with BGU last year, and in September the UJ Senate imposed sanctions on BGU.

They insisted on the adoption of a Palestinian university into the current UJ-BGU agreement and a pledge not to join any activity with military implications or contributing to possible human rights abuses. The report concludes that "BGU's practices and policies are incompatible with UJ values. These findings call into question any relationships that other institutions currently engaging with BGU may have."

A BGU spokeswoman said: "The senior administration of UJ recently visited BGU and saw for themselves the reality of a vibrant university that is dedicated to the values of academic freedom, regional co-operation and the advancement of social justice through education and research.

"We believe the administration will reject the report as it is a collection of lies and mistruths about BGU and Israel."

The report was due to be discussed at a joint Amnesty International and UJ seminar on Wednesday.

Michael Bagraim, president of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said: "Amnesty has a long and illustrious history of attacking Israel. They're quick to jump in. We've got atrocities all over the world and problems all over the Middle East and they're still pounding BGU."

Last updated: 12:32pm, March 17 2011