Unions pressure South African university to break ties with Israel

An education and health workers’ union in South Africa is campaigning to get the University of Johannesburg to cut its long standing ties with Israel’s  Ben-Gurion University.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (NEHAWU), which is affiliated to the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) says it supports calls to terminate its “apartheid-era relationship” with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).

The South African national trade union centre COSATU has also called on the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to terminate any relationship with the Israel’s Ben Gurion University (BGU).

“It (BGU) has consistently refused to oppose the Israeli government’s attempts to silence academics that support sanctions against Israel and so it is a much compromised institution whose reputation and credibility are in tatters,” COSATU’s international relations spokesperson Bongani Masuku is quoted as saying by the news wire agency Sapa.

Feeling the pressure from anti-Israel activists the University of Johannesburg and Ben-Gurion University are currently in talks about  their on-going relationship – with some suggestion that a Palestinian university may become part of a new three-way relationship involving South Africa, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

On the COSATU website the national trade union centre also states they fully endorsed Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) 2011 from 7th-20th March .

A South African media outlet reports that the University of Johannesburg and Ben-Gurion University are re-negotiating their relationship with a deadline set for April 1 – but NEHAWU  charges that Ben Gurion had not shown any willingness to comply with the conditions that were set nor with the deadline.

NEHAWU  claims Ben-Gurion University actively collaborates with the Israeli Defence Force by offering special privileges and services to the army.

“Although there is a well-financed propaganda machinery that is trying to justify the abuse and victimisation of Palestinians, their struggle for freedom and justice needs to be told and defended by those in our country who are grateful for the freedoms we have,” NEHAWU says in a media statement.

“There are a lot of people who sacrificed their lives and livelihoods to fight against the apartheid regime and that is a legacy we need to preserve and cherish. We are not free as long as there are still people who are oppressed around the world and evil triumphs when good people say and do nothing,” NEHAWU said.