Press Release: Wits University Takes Firm Stand Against Anti-Israel Boycotters

by The SAJBD on 6 September 2012

in Press Releases

Anti-Israel lobby groups have been making a concerted effort to persuade South African institutions to endorse their platform of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. In doing so, they have not only propagated false and emotive allegations against Israel, but are increasingly seeking to shut down any debate on the issue so that their distorted claims cannot be challenged.

One of the arenas in which the BDS agenda is continually pushed is in the University environment. This was the case last week when the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) adopted a resolution calling for a complete academic and cultural boycott of Israel. What made this resolution even more reprehensible was that it also called for action to be taken to prevent pro-Israel activities ever taking place on Wits campus in the future. As such, it constituted a brazen attempt to intimidate Jewish students and others sympathetic to the Israeli cause into remaining silent in the face of the blatant propaganda-mongering of the other side. Such thuggish, fascist behaviour has no place in a democratic society, and certainly not in an academic environment committed to the principles of free enquiry and debate.

It is in light of this that the SA Jewish Board of Deputies applauds the firm, principled and unequivocal stand that has been taken by the senior Wits leadership against the SRC resolution. In separate statements (see below), the University itself, its Acting Vice-Chancellor and Principal and the Wits Convocation have all strongly distanced themselves from the SRC’s action. All three statements affirm the importance of diversity of views of staff, students, and alumni, regardless of religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise. It is these values of freedom of expression and association that makes South Africa the democracy that we fought for, and make us admired by the rest of the world. We sincerely hope their unequivocal support of these values will inspire others, and particularly other universities in South Africa, not to be intimidated but rather to stand up against the hateful agenda of the BDS campaign.

Issued by Jeff Katz, Gauteng Council Chairman, SAJBD, 082 606 5143

 

Wits University SRC Press Statement on Boycott of Israel Resolution

STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND

The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg would like to confirm that the views and opinions expressed by the Students’ Representative Council and other student groups do not represent the official views of the University, nor are they an accurate reflection of the views of the majority of students, staff and alumni.

One of the University’s greatest strengths is its diversity  of people, programmes and ideas. This lends to the robustness of an institution that provides a platform for often diverse and conflicting views to be aired and debated, in the spirit of tolerance, respect and freedom of expression and speech. This enriches us as members of the Wits community and allows us to appreciate our differences so that we can study, live and work together in our country and beyond our borders. This is one of the greatest qualities of excellent higher education institutions.

We value the diverse views of all our staff, students and alumni regardless of their race, religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise, provided that they do not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution.

Wits is one of the leading higher education institutions on the continent, all the more so because of its ability to celebrate its diversity.


STATEMENT FROM THE ACTING VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JOHANNESBURG

 “In light of the recent statement issued by the Students’ Representative Council (SRC)of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, calling for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel, the University would like to affirm that the views and opinions expressed by the SRC or any other student groups on campus do not represent the official views of the University, nor are they necessarily an accurate reflection of the views of the majority of its students, staff and alumni.

Wits University is a leading institution on the African continent renowned for encouraging dialogue and debate on often diverse and conflicting views confronting society. It provides a platform for different constituencies to express their views and opinions through considered debate and intellectual engagement in the spirit of tolerance, respect and openness.

We value the diverse views of all our staff, students and alumni regardless of their race, religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise, provided that they do not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution.

The diversity of people, programmes and ideas at Wits lends to the richness and robustness of the institution. This is indeed one of the greatest qualities of excellent higher education institutions, and one which Wits cherishes.

Prof. Yunus Ballim
Acting Vice-Chancellor
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg


STATEMENT FROM THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF CONVOCATION

The Executive Committee of Convocation of the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg would like to distance itself from the views and opinions expressed by the Students’ Representative Council with regards to a ‘Boycott of Israel’.

We, as convocation, value the diverse views of all our members (i.e. academic staff and alumni) regardless of their race, religion, gender, culture, language, ideology or otherwise, provided that they do not exceed the limitations explicated in our Constitution. In our view, the diversity of people, programmes and ideas is one the greatest strengths that makes studying at Wits an enriching experience.

Professor Mamokgethi Setati
President of Convocation
(on behalf of the Executive Committee of Convocation)


The SAJBD

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is the central representative institution of the South African Jewish community.

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