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South African university cuts ties with Israel's BGU

March 27, 2011 12:27 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2011 11:51 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The senate of South Africa's University of Johannesburg voted Wednesday to sever links with Israel's Ben Gurion University.

The university is not subscribing to an academic boycott, however, Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Ihron Rensburg said in a statement issued Friday.

"The UJ Senate voted to bring an end to the formal institutional agreement between the two universities which at this particular time, in the Senate's view, creates an obstacle to cooperation between academics in Israel and Palestine," Rensburg said.

"This senate resolution does not prevent individual academics from continuing and engaging in research and other partnerships with their peers from BGU and other institutions around the world, as is currently the practice in many cases," he added.

In September, the university conditioned its relationship with Ben Gurion University on the inclusion of Palestinian academics and its compliance with the University of Johannesburg's stated principles to advance "human dignity and human solidarity."

The senate decided in that if these conditions were not met within six months, the universities' Memorandum of Understanding would "automatically lapse" on April 1.

On Wednesday, the senate voted to allow the university's formal relationship with Ben Gurion University to end.

South African Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has backed a campaign to boycott Israeli universities.

"Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions. South African universities with their own long and complex histories of both support for apartheid and resistance to it should know something about the value of this nonviolent option," Tutu said in September.

“In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ's transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its

scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation," he added.

The academic boycott campaign is also backed by a long list of high-profile anti-apartheid campaigners, including Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Rashida Manjoo, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche, a statement from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said.

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