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South African university cuts some ties with Israeli school

Sept. 29, 2010 8:32 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 30, 2010 4:27 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The University of Johannesburg decided to conditionally sever ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University on Wednesday, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance announced.

Calls for the break in ties prompted the launch of a fact-finding investigation by the University, which told the university's senate that it had confirmed BGU’s links with the Israeli military and complicity in the Israeli occupation.

A petition filed by academic groups was backed earlier in September by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as some 250 South African academics, organizers said.

The conditional severance includes research or teaching relationships with BGU "that has direct or indirect military links; or in instances where human rights abuses are identified." When violations of the universities charter are identified, the decision said, they will be terminated after six months.

The decision went further and "recognized the necessity for the University to engage with Palestinian universities," a statement from the petitioners said.

UJ Vice Chancellor Adam Habib told Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that what was decided on in the senate was a compromise, maintaining some ties with the Israeli university, but also pledging to work in parallel to establish ties with Palestinian universities.

"We believe in reconciliation," Habib said. "We'd like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone."

Petitioners also called the decision a victory, saying "The overwhelming support of respected South African voices has highlighted the structural complicity of Israeli universities in the occupation," and adding that the decision "emphasizes the necessity for South African universities to reconsider their affiliations to Israeli institutions."
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