The academic boycott of Israel by the University of Cape Town is closer than it has ever been. The current status is that the boycott has been passed by the students and by the Senate and now will go to Council on March 30th for a final vote.
Whereas a tremendous amount of work has been exerted by the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), assisted by the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), it is possible that this horror will nevertheless become a reality.
Unsurprisingly, those advocating the boycott have worked hard to shut down debate on the issue, effectively only allowing the pro boycott voices to be hear. In an op ed in SA publication, PoliticsWeb, SAUJS had the following to say:
“SAUJS is a Jewish organisation representing Jews on campus, and our members have an intrinsic spiritual, religious and historical connection to Israel. It follows that we are key stakeholders on any issue relating to Israel and will be most affected by any measure to boycott Israeli academic institutions. Notwithstanding this, we have been repeatedly excluded and denied the opportunity to engage, participate and make representations on this boycott issue since it began two years ago.
“In the Senate meeting on 15 March 2019, to take one example, in which the AFC’s proposal was discussed, SAUJS was excluded and barred from the opportunity to provide arguments against the proposal to the Senate. It is impossible for academics and interested parties to make an unbiased and informed decision on this highly complex matter when only one biased set of arguments for the measure are presented in a Senate agenda pack, and opposing arguments are excluded and not allowed by the Registrar.”
The question is what should be done should the vote to boycott transpire?
One approach would be to continue to lobby the university diplomatically in order to try and reverse the decision. The strategy would be to demonstrate the damage caused by the obvious prejudice against Jews and those who are supportive or even those who are neutral to Israel.
This approach would attempt to point out that the university imposes no such boycott on other countries where human rights abuses are significantly worse. That list is extensive and displays a blatant hypocrisy unbecoming on any organisation, let alone one that claims to value academic freedom.
This approach would also argue that the very nature of an academic boycott flies in the face of academia and that it shuts down discourse and debate whilst supporting one agenda only. An agenda that is dangerous and oppressive.
Although the strategy might be sound and rational, should the University of Cape Town confirm an academic boycott of Israel, it would be unlikely that this would work to reverse the decision. The University will have effectively been captured by the BDS movement and should now need to live with the consequences of its decision.
The approach, and one that I advocate, is that UCT be labelled “A Jew Unfriendly University.”
I believe that should an academic boycott of Israel by the University of Cape Town become a reality, then the university needs to be publicly exposed and labelled as being antisemitic. Enough research exists to no longer debate that Anti Zionism is the new antisemitism and what follows the success of a BDS initiative is almost inevitably a spike in old school Semitism. I believe that Jews and supporters of academic freedom need to be made aware of the dangers of associating with an institution that follows this path.
Should a boycott of Israel be endorsed, I advocate an immediate withdrawal of all Jewish students and academics, as well as of all support for Jewish students. This includes the deregistration of Jewish social groups, Chabad and other affiliated organisations.
SAUJS should de register from the university and that the SAJBD should not involve itself in anything that assists students or the university. Students who are already registered and who are unable to transfer (for example medical students) should complete their degree but no Jew should enrol as a new student.
The university needs to be publicly known as a no-go for Jews. It needs to be called out for what it is: A Jew unfriendly university.
Jewish academics from academic institutions around the world need to be made aware of UCT’s discriminatory policies and should be aware that associating with the institution is to associate with a Jew Unfriendly University.
Jewish UCT Alumni need to resign any form of membership and no donations should be given to the institution. Jewish family scholarships should be withdrawn.
If the University of Cape Town chooses to go the route of boycotting Israeli Academic institutions, then it needs to live with the consequences that follow. UCT has the right to choose to cave to the prejudicial pressure of the BDS movement and its anti semitic support base, but the Jewish community (long supporters of academia) too have the choice how to react.
It will be worth noting where UCT features on the list of universities globally on March 30th 2019 and then revisited 5 years later. There is little doubt what that result will demonstrate.
As unpleasant as the consequences of this approach will be, and as attractive as continued dialogue will always be, should UCT display a lack of moral courage on March 30, 2019, and choose the boycott Israel, then we need to accept that diplomacy has failed, and so has what once was a magnificent institution.