Calling on UCT to reject academic boycott
“We believe that implementing this measure would be severely discriminatory towards Jewish students on campus,” SAUJS said in a statement this week. “SAUJS represents Jews on campus, and our members have an intrinsic spiritual, religious, and historical connection to Israel.”
The SAZF this week appealed for action, calling on UCT alumni to act.
The university council is due to vote on the academic boycott on Saturday. While the senate comprehensively rejected a motion calling for a boycott in November 2018, it was reintroduced in an amended form last week, and then passed with a 62-43 margin, with 10 abstentions.
SAUJS expressed its concern and disappointment to the council, fearful that any such boycott would discriminate against Jewish students on campus. It said that in spite of its status as a key stakeholder in this issue, it had repeatedly been denied the opportunity to engage since the issue first arose two years ago.
“We have been forced to question whether Jewish students have the same right to freedom of expression and participation that are guaranteed to other students and bodies at UCT. We have repeatedly been denied right of reply, the right to offer our point of view, to participate and be represented at various discussions, to protest at meetings, and to access the minutes and documents at various bodies.”
SAUJS also questioned the procedural fairness of the entire process, expressing concern about blatant expressions of anti-Israel bias among members of the Academic Freedom Committee. Should the proposal be accepted, SAUJS says, it fears that such sentiments would become anti-Semitic in nature, and increase the sense of insecurity among Jewish students at UCT. “What would such an acceptance mean for our presence on campus? What further suppressions of freedom of expression would it lead to?”
The statement closes with a request that the council repudiate the “harmful, discriminatory, and counterproductive” measure, and make every effort to “restore a sense of inclusivity and respect for Jewish students”.
The SAZF called on UCT alumni to prevent the action, asking for “urgent assistance in taking a stand against this dangerous attempt to attack Israel and undermine academic freedom at UCT. The consequences of the decision will be important for UCT, South Africa, and Israel’s supporters globally.”
It said the boycott would “contribute nothing to peace, and only damage UCT’s reputation”. The SAZF also stressed the importance of maintaining the university’s “international standing, its relationships with all international universities, and the ability for UCT students and academics to freely engage in academic studies without restriction”.
The SAZF has asked UCT alumni to sign a petition that will be presented to the council before the vote is taken. It has also asked those who know members of the UCT council to contact the SAZF, and for its statement to be disseminated across social media.