The misguided announcement by TUT to not engage with Israel
15 December 2017
In a bizarre move, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has announced it does not want to engage with Israel because it’s a “progressive university” that supports the Palestinians. In fact, it was just making a political statement of support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions organisation (BDS). This is an unfortunate stance and bad for academic freedom and South Africans.
Despite supposedly being a university, it is clear that opposing views were never entertained in this decision, and basic facts ignored in the decision. At no point were TUT Jewish and Christian students consulted, which also begs the question as to why this went straight to Council, before the Senate made a decision? The notion that there was an engagement regarding this is absurd. The university has been supporting the BDS organisation, with university resources, for many years, resources that could be going to its own students. The entire fiasco is a clear violation of academic freedom.
The BDS have a long history of anti-Semitism (sometimes shrouded in anti-Zionist rhetoric) on university campuses. However lest we forget the “Shoot the Jew” incident at the Wits campus, or the "expulsion of Jews” statement at Durban University of Technology, or the Nazi salutes during IAW at Wits this year, just to mention a few incidents! BDS and affiliated groups host events which are hotbeds for Jew hatred, as confirmed by this year’s Equality Court, ruling on a complaint brought by the South African Human Rights Commission of anti-Semitic hate speech. Even those who are opposed to Israel have noted the anti-Semitic aspects of BDS, such as:
However, it is not just the Jews and the academic world that has lost out here, it’s all South Africans. The main complaint of TUT seems to be that they are opposed to water research with Israel. Whilst our country is being destroyed through a drought, and students look for funding opportunities in development, TUT is putting a blanket ban on engaging with the only democracy in the Middle East.
Israeli universities are the top in the world with research collaborations in the United States, Botswana, Canada, Germany, China, India and many others. TUT’s academic credentials are already low on South Africa’s university rankings, and should its management continue with its current trajectory, it will confine a generation of students to education level of nothing more than a glorified high school.
TUT’s statement is ludicrous with its claim that it is committed to peace. Instead they are cutting off avenues for dialogue, and betraying the example of Nelson Mandela's engagement to the world.
Issued by Rachel Raff, National Chairperson, South African Union of Jewish Students, 15 December 2017