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UCT did not adopt Senate’s resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions

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The University of Cape Town has chosen not to adopt a resolution by Senate to boycott Israeli universities operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

On Saturday, 30 March 2019, the University of Cape Town (UCT) Council did not adopt the resolution of Senate that “UCT will not enter into any formal relationships 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.”

In a statement issued by UCT’s registrar and Secretary to Council, Royston Pillay, the university explained its decision to not adopt this resolution and sending it back to Senate. Council said that there were several issues that required clarification before it could adopt the resolution, including a full assessment of the sustainability impact of the proposed resolution. The university also felt that a more consultative process was necessary before the matter could be given any further consideration.

Although council had separately resolved to reaffirm its commitment to supporting the rights and freedom of all people as universally recognised under international law and condemn any acts that violate those rights and freedoms, amongst other things, the decision to reject Senate’s resolution by Council was welcomed by different stakeholders.

On Sunday, 31 March 2019, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD)’s spokesperson Charisse Zeifert issued a statement commending UCT’s Council for opting not to adopt Senate’s resolution of an academic boycott of Israel.

“Their decision on Saturday endorsed the principles of academic freedom that underpin any credible global top-ranking university. An attempt to boycott academic institutions in Israel, or indeed in any other country, would contravene outright these principles, on which the proper functioning of institutes of higher learning is predicated,” she said.

UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) chairperson Alex Hotz said that they did not understand the Council’s decision to send the resolution back to Senate, when Senate had, on 15 March 2019, already resolved to boycott all Israeli academic institutions.

“As the PSF, we call for complete Palestinian liberation, not just an end to the Israeli violation of Palestinian human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. However, we recognise that this is an important step towards the ultimate liberation.”

“It is very noteworthy that by council’s resolution, we have lost nothing. We have only gained and advanced – not as much as we had hoped. It is an important step towards UCT adopting the academic boycott of Israel,” Hotz said.

Abenathi Gqomo
[email protected]

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