Our Johannesburg boycott 'not academic'

The vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has denied that his university supports an academic boycott of Israel, despite announcing earlier this week that it is severing ties with its longtime Israeli partner, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

Professor Ihron Rensburg said he wanted to make clear that the move to cut the partnership between the two institutions, including in fields such as water purification research, did not represent an academic boycott.

The decision, the next step in an anti-Israel campaign orchestrated by hundreds of South African academics and intellectuals, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was condemned by Jewish and Israeli groups.

Uri Keidar, the leader of the BGU student association, called it "a brutal attack".

But Prof Rensburg said: "Given the current situation in the Middle East, the formal institutional agreement between UJ and BGU is an insurmountable obstacle to either institution facilitating a wider dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian academics."

He added: "This senate resolution does not prevent individual academics from continuing and engaging in research and other partnerships with their peers from BGU."

    Last updated: 12:05pm, March 31 2011