South African university severs ties with Ben Gurion U.


(JTA) — The University of Johannesburg’s faculty senate voted to cut ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

In Wednesday’s secret ballot, 72 faculty members voted in favor of ending a memorandum of understanding between the two universities, with 45 members voting against, according to the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper.

After an agreement between the universities to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification projects was announced in 2009, several Johannesburg faculty members protested, complaining of Israeli apartheid. Last October, the faculty senate voted on a resolution that required the two institutions to amend the joint memorandum to include Palestinian universities and researchers and said the relationship would be terminated if the conditions were not met by spring. 

The South African university also said at the time that it would not engage in any activities with Ben-Gurion that had direct or indirect military implications.

"The senate vote effectively upholds an earlier resolution that placed conditions on its continued relationships with BGU, among them the inclusion of Palestinian university partners," the statement said.

"Today’s senate vote does not preclude individual academics from UJ, BGU or any Palestinian university from any academic collaboration. The senate vote encourages academics at UJ, BGU and Palestinian universities to pursue research projects without formal institutional agreements."

The boycott campaign was championed by Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu and at least 400 other prominent South African figures and academics, who signed a petition last year calling on University of Johannesburg academics and students to cut ties with Ben-Gurion University.

Ben-Gurion University "regrets" the University of Johannesburg’s decision to cancel their collaborative efforts, the Israeli university said in a statement issued Thursday.

"Peace will only happen when there is a dialogue between all of the people of the region. Cancelling this agreement, which was designed to solve real problems of water contamination in a reservoir near Johannesburg, will only hurt the residents of South Africa," said the statement. "Regardless of UJ’s decision, BGU reaffirms its commitment to continue its ongoing collaborative work with Palestinian researchers in the fields of water, health care and sustainable development."

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