Issues Of Academic Freedom

The University of Johannesburg in South Africa has decided to sever its working relationship with Ben Gurion University in Israel due to questions concerning that institution’s support of the Israel armed forces. The decision arose out of student demands to end the relationship on grounds Israel believed in apartheid policies. Among groups supporting the decision was the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign which argued BGU was engaged in “research for an occupation army” and supported efforts to deny academic freedom to Palestinian professors and students. On the other hand, the South African Union of Jewish Students argues the decision is a blow to “academic freedom” and singles out Israeli universities while remaining quiet about universities in societies like China, or Saudi Arabia or Belarus which are blatantly dictatorial.

If individual Israeli academics were involved in assisting the Israel Defense Force then it is appropriate to regard them as violating academic freedom, but there are professors at BGU who fight for the rights of Palestinians. If Israel is to be denied relations with South African universities than so should academic leaders at all universities in dictatorial and oppressive regimes. If not, it is an example of anti-semitism.

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