Boycott groups succeed in removing Israeli professors from South African conference program


(JTA) — Seven professors from Israeli universities will not participate in a conference on Historical Trauma at a university in South Africa after pressure from boycott groups against Israel.

The four-day conference “Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: The Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma,” will begin on Dec. 4 at Stellenbosch University.

Last week 18 Palestinian solidarity groups called on the conference’s organizers, speakers, participants and sponsors to withdraw Israeli participation in the conference. Among the groups are South African Jews for a Free Palestine.

In a letter to delegates posted Tuesday on the website of the conference, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, chair of organizing committee, said that he had been “in contact with the Israeli academics, and they have all since rescinded their participation at the conference and will no longer be part of the programme.” Reports in South African media and elsewhere said that the invitations to the Israeli academics to participate had been withdrawn.

The professors came from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Gobodo-Madikizela noted that the academics’ research “involved disrupting the Israel narrative” and that “none of the Israeli participants we invited … represents the position of the state of Israel against Palestinians.”

He wrote: “The call to boycott is an important one. The problem is whether a distinction can be made to permit an Israeli academic to take part whose work clearly exposes, rather than normalizes, experiences that are painful and traumatic. Clearly, the rationale for the boycott does not call for the exclusion of someone whose work unambiguously exposes the very conditions that led to the call for a boycott.”

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