Over the course of the last weeks, at our world-renowned University of Cape Town (UCT), South Africa, a series of talks were held by Israel Academic Boycott, a program of the UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF). In discussion were various topics supporting the full academic boycott of the Jewish State. There were only speakers supporting the proposed boycott and so it seems that this was neither a discussion nor an engagement for any dialogue, but a one-sided promotion of the BDS movement.
The matter has been presented to and is being considered by UCT’s Academic Freedom Committee (AFC) which is currently considering all the information presented to it.
If passed, UCT would be obliged to cut all ties with Israeli academic institutions — a move that would no doubt be unsupported by many institutions all over the world, academic and other. A conclusion has not yet been reached, and is seemingly not favoured by UCT Vice Chancellor Dr Max Price even though other members of the AFC apparently do support the full boycott.
It is a true tragedy that any members of a committee which is supposed to support academic freedom, learning, engagement and growth should support cutting ties with a nation which is on the forefront of technological, agricultural, medical and other advances steering the world forward in many ways; a nation which is also currently supporting many truly remarkable projects throughout Africa. The irony of calling for cutting all ties with Israel, including of course any educational student exchange programs, is that it promotes preventing people from seeing Israel for themselves. It promotes saying ‘no’ to any dialogue and does not allow people to question and find out information on what is actually happening.
Most people of the general public jump onto the Palestinian cause because they genuinely want to stand up for the underdog. Who wouldn’t want to help the underdog? But one has to wonder why it is that so many seem to be disinterested or angered when presented with facts.
There can only be one reason why people would not be interested in, or would get angered by, plain, unemotional facts, and it is that these facts interfere with the embraced narrative that Israel is an aggressor to be fought. Also, people don’t like to be wrong. It, sadly, takes a real grown-up to admit ‘I was wrong’.
If you are reading this and happen to be one of the very passionate people fighting for the rights of the Palestinian people, I implore you, as free-thinking and passionate individuals who care for the well-being of others, to consider:
1. How is it possible for so many Palestinians to live in squalor while millions of dollars in aid are funneled to the Palestinian Authority?
Consider with this how it is possible for so many Palestinians to live in utter luxury at the same time. Who is supposed to be managing these funds to take care of the people? Why so much money going into the destruction on the Jewish State instead of civil engineering and education?
2. How is it possible for the Palestinian population to have grown from around 650,000 in 1948 to around 4.6 million now if Israel is engaged in constant ‘ethnic cleansing’? And if there is this ‘ethnic cleansing’ going on, how come Israeli society is made up of millions of Muslim Arab and Christian citizens? That’s not to mention Baha’i and other religions and ethnic groups. One has to concede that this simply does not make sense.
3. Why does the Palestinian Authority not say ‘yes’ to having a Palestinian State when offered? They can have a State at any time they like.
4. Before jumping straight to ‘Jews build/ expand settlements in disputed areas’ consider- Why is it made okay that the world should support the Palestinian people to be such ethno-fascists that it is somehow deemed ‘ understandable’ if someone ‘loses all sense’ and murders people because of not wanting Jews to live among them? Should we not be more concerned that non-Muslims are, to put it euphemistically, not welcome in Palestinian areas?
If those areas become a Palestinian State, then those Jews who live there should have the option of deciding whether to move in order to remain citizens of Israel, or become citizens of Palestine. Much like what should happen in the formation of any state.
However this is not the case. Jews are targeted as enemies by virtue of being Jews living ‘too close’.
5. Why is this not questioned by those whole-heartedly and blindly standing against Israel just by the default of standing for the Palestinian people?
Be courageous and questions this.
Supporting any boycott of Israel without investigating for oneself whether or not these allegations against Israel are actually true, not only puts supporters of Israel (or just Jewish people in general as we have seen in many incidences around the world) in literal danger, but also prevents growth, learning, understanding and dialogue. It prevents the exact ingredients needed in the first place for any peaceful resolutions.
With the accusations against Israel being painted and accepted by the general public as truth, a great tragedy unfolds:
The tragedy that a UCT academic boycott of Israel would cause is that the poorest people relying on funding in order to study would lose out as UCT would lose the support of many institutions if it chooses to endorse this boycott. This BDS movement has been deemed illegal and unlawful by many first world states and institutions. Supporting BDS would have UCT move itself and South Africa many steps backwards because of its refusal to engage in dialogue and find out facts. All those poor people for whom concerned citizens fervently marched in order for fees to fall would be at a great and tragic disadvantage. In the greatest irony of our time, so would the Palestinian people.
The accusation that Israel practices Apartheid is not only untrue but is an unimaginable and cheapening insult to those who know what Apartheid was. Listen to the indomitable Olga Meshoe here and learn some facts about what it means to compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa. It is a mind-boggle to consider the fact that many Islamic states (including the Palestinian Territories) actually have such policies, some written in law and even when not officially written in law. It is literally dangerous to one’s life to enter many of these countries / places / areas if you are not a devout Muslim, and especially dangerous if you are a Jew. THIS is actually akin to Apartheid.
If you want to support the Palestinian people you are right to fight for them to be free. But it is freedom from themselves and their brainwashing and abusive leadership for which we should be fighting. Israel is a key partner in that fight for the people to have the same freedom that Israel offers. Preserve UCT as the excellent world-renowned university it is, support those learners who need it most, let South Africa continue to benefit from Israel, stop cheapening what Apartheid was and be courageous – always question.