UCT’s Academic Freedom Committee Has Lost Its Way
8 August 2019
The University of Cape Town’s once venerated “Academic Freedom Committee” (AFC) has veered ominously off its core mandate to uphold academic freedom at UCT. The committee has now simply become a vehicle to steamroll a boycott of Israeli academia at the expense of UCT’s reputation and international standing. It is more apt to name it the UCT “Boycott Israel Committee”.
The committee has spent a disproportionate amount of its precious time over the past two years deliberating on how to boycott Israeli academia. It has failed to uphold the values and principles of academic freedom at the University or in South Africa. It has rather obsessed, almost exclusively, with ways and means of preventing UCT academics and students from freely determining whether or not they wish to engage with Israeli academics or universities. In this manner the committee has weaponised the concept of academic freedom in order to bash the one and only Jewish State.
The AFC has a history of giving a platform to anti-Israel speakers. Its latest manoeuvre has been to invite Dr Steven Salaita to deliver the once esteemed TB Davie Memorial Lecture on Academic Freedom. Salaita, a US-Palestinian academic, has made numerous antisemitic statements such as: “Zionists: transforming anti-semitism from something horrible into something honorable since 1948”, “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the f*cking West Bank settlers would go missing” and, “the logic of ‘antisemitism’ deployed by Zionists, if applied in principle, would make pretty much everybody [who is] not a sociopath, ‘antisemitic’”. The committee’s support of Salaita is telling and worrisome.
We call on the University of Cape Town to disband the current committee and demonstrate its commitment to academic freedom at the University.
Issued by Rowan Polovin, National Chairman, South African Zionist Federation, 8 August 2019