For past two years, Africa’s top university has been entertaining the adoption of an academic boycott of Israel. The Senate recently adopted a resolution stating that, “UCT will not enter into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as other Israeli academic institutions enabling gross human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Historically, UCT has enjoyed the reputation of being an inclusive environment for students from all cultural and racial backgrounds. The concept of tolerance implies that we refrain from using violence, intimidation, boycotts threats and bans to silence our opponents.
As SPME we urge UCT to follow the path of the Chancellors of the University of California where they underscored that:
“Boycott of this sort poses a direct and serious threat to the academic freedom of our students and faculty, as well as the unfettered exchange of ideas and perspectives on our campuses, including debate and discourse regarding conflicts in the Middle East.”
Given UCT’s connection with universities in the UC system and with worldwide institutions, we fear that this action could cut off UCT from the international academic community.
We further urge that UCT to draw on its rich history, as an institution that creates a community of intellectual individuals. Any decision to boycott Israeli universities only contributes to the popularity of extremist politics and threatens to fracture the campus community.
SPME believes that the BDS movement as a whole is contrary to the search for peace, since it represents a form of misguided economic and cognitive warfare. It is in direct opposition to decades of agreements between Israel and Palestinians, in which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to a two state solution. By focusing obsessively on Israel, and not on countries where actual human and civil rights abuses exist and where academics are suppressed, the actions of those supporting the BDS campaign are, as former Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers put it, “anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent.”
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