Thousands call on Africa’s largest university not to boycott Israel

Alumni, parents and students of Africa’s top university, the University of Cape Town (UCT), have banded together in a bid to halt any attempt of an academic boycott of Israel.

The group, which calls itself Concerned Citizens for Academic Freedom at UCT, started a recent petition called, “Protect Academic Freedom at the University of Cape Town.”

Almost 25,000 people have signed the petition, which calls “upon UCT’s management and leadership to stand against this campaign. We believe that the implementation of a wholesale academic boycott against Israel violates the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, guaranteed in Section 16 of the South African Constitution and which are fundamental to the undertaking of education and research.”

This comes as the university’s senate is expected to meet again to clarify and discuss certain issues that its council, the ruling body of the university, have requested following its decision not to institute an academic boycott of Israel.

Thee university’s senate, which is predominantly made up of academics, voted in favour of a motion to academically boycott Israeli institutions. The decision was passed in the senate by a small margin of 62 in favor, 43 against, and 10 abstentions.

However, Royston Pillay, the registrar and secretary to the council, said that UCT “did not adopt this resolution of the senate” because “it was the view of the council that a number of issues required clarification.”
Once the clarifications are made, the senate resolution on whether or not to institute a boycott will go back to council to be decided.

The UCT alumni explained in the petition’s description that “as administrators, any decision to boycott Israeli universities fans the flames of anti-Jewish hostility on campus and it should recognise that the primary source of the harassment, intimidation, suppression of speech and ethnic discrimination of Jewish students originate from the pejorative activities of these student groups who do not make this differentiation.”

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