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UCT Boycott of Israeli Institutions Not anti-Semitic

“By allowing Israeli institutions to function as normal, we stand to condone the violent actions of the State”, is the poignant observation of Talya Lubinsky.

Writing on behalf of South African Jews for a Free Palestine (SAJFP), a civil society organization that is part of this country’s host of solidarity movements for Palestine, Lubinsky makes a compelling case to boycott Israel’s academic institutions.

And she is clear on one specific point: the call to the University of Cape Town (UCT) to adopt a boycott of Israel’s academic institutions is not anti-Semitic.

Disputing the false notion purveyed by Israel’s pressure groups in South Africa, which seeks to discredit and malign such boycott campaigns as anti-Semitic, Lubinsky doesn’t mince her words.

While conceding that Universities are platforms for the exchange of ideas in the pursuit of learning and producing knowledge, it doesn’t necessarily mean that such debates are isolated from contemporary political and social challenges.

Lubinsky explains that state funded academic institutions form part of the power wielded by governments.  Therefore to boycott institutions of inherently unjust states is to challenge their oppressive systems.

The case of Israel is no different. It’s academic institutions are key components of the scaffolding which props up Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Thus to boycott such props or to call upon universities such as UCT to disengage from these is not only necessary but an imperative.

It is no exaggeration to state that since Israel’s colonial imposition, its academics have by and large underpinned the regime’s hegemonic political-military establishment.

Lubinsky correctly asserts that notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, the rest are implicated in supporting and perpetuating Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

And to nullify deceitful allegations of anti-Semitism, she reminds us of an important fact: the call is not to boycott individual academics purely because they were born in Israel; it is aimed at all institutions functioning under the official governance of the state.

It is thus not surprising that the BDS (Boycott Divestment Sanctions) movement, including PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.

However – here follows a big BUT – if an individual is representing the Israeli regime or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to “rebrand” itself, then her/his activities are subject to the institutional boycott the BDS is calling for.

Lubinsky’s compelling argument and well-reasoned case is sufficient grounds for the UCT to heed the call to boycott Israeli institutions. It doesn’t need to fear or be intimidated by smear campaigns.

We are all familiar with such hateful slander which Lubinsky insists must not silence us: “The conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is all too often invoked by the South African Jewish community to silence anti-Zionist protest”.

Her plea to the Jewish community to see the campaign as an opportunity to stand up against human rights abuses, is equally powerful.

“By allowing Israeli institutions to function as normal, we stand to condone the violent actions of the state”.


Iqbal Jassat

Exec Member: Media Review Network




Iqbal Jassat