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UCT: a Jew unfriendly university

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HOWARD FELDMAN

Whereas a tremendous amount of work has been done by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and other community bodies to prevent this, it is possible that this horror will nevertheless become a reality. The question is what should be done should this transpire?

One approach would be to continue to lobby the university diplomatically to try and reverse the decision. The strategy would be to demonstrate the damage caused by the obvious prejudice against Jews, and those who are supportive or even neutral about Israel.

It would be to continue to point out that the university imposes no such boycott on other countries where human rights abuses are significantly worse. It seems to focus on this only because of Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS)-type institutions with members who wake up each day and live their life with the sole purpose of damaging a country.

This approach would also argue that the very nature of an academic boycott flies in the face of academia. It shuts down discourse and debate while supporting one agenda. An agenda that is dangerous and oppressive.

Although sound on every level, should UCT vote for an academic boycott of Israel, it would be unlikely that these approaches would work to reverse it.

The other approach, and one that I advocate, is more dramatic and confrontational.

I believe that in the event of UCT confirming an academic boycott of Israel, it should be labelled “A Jew unfriendly university”. Should it become a reality, the university should be publicly exposed and labelled as anti-Semitic. Enough research exists to put the fact that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism beyond debate; and what follows the success of a BDS initiative is a spike in old school anti-Semitism. Jews need to be made aware of the dangers of associating with an institution that follows this path.

What follows should be an immediate withdrawal of all Jewish students and academics, as well as all support by Jewish students.

This means that SAUJS (the South African Union of Jewish Students) should de-register from the university, and that the SAJBD should not involve itself in anything that assists students or the university. Students who are already registered and who are unable to transfer (for example medical students) should complete their degree, but no Jew should enrol as a new student. The university needs to be made known as a Jew-unfriendly university.

Jewish academics from around the world need to be made aware of UCT’s discriminatory policies, and should be aware that associating with the institution is to associate with a Jew-unfriendly university.

Jewish UCT alumni need to resign any form of membership, and no donations should be given to the institution.

If UCT chooses to go the route of boycotting Israeli academic institutions, then it needs to live with the consequences.

UCT has the right to choose to cave in to the prejudicial pressure of the BDS movement and its anti-Semitic support base. However, the Jewish community (long supporters of academia) can also choose how to react.

The consequences of this approach are unpleasant, and continued dialogue would certainly be much more attractive. However, should UCT display its lack of moral courage on 30 March 2019 and choose the boycott, then it needs to be accepted that diplomacy has failed. Along with what once was a magnificent institution.

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