Findings on Ben-Gurion University of the Negev: Institutional complicity and active collaboration with Israeli military, occupation and apartheid practices


Background to the Report

In September 2010, over 250 South African academics (including Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Alan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Achille Mbembe and Sampie Terreblanche) as well as prominent supporters (such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Professor Mahmood Mamdani and Ronnie Kasrils) initiated a campaign calling on the University of Johannesburg (UJ) to end its long-standing relationship with the Israeli institution, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

Against the backdrop of this nationwide campaign, UJ’s Senate voted not to continue its relationship with BGU as it stands. UJ’s Senate set conditions for BGU to comply with within 6 months, failing which relations between the two institutions will automatically terminate. These conditions are captured in a September 2010 Senate Resolution.

In February 2011, a fact-finding investigation was undertaken in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The purpose of the investigation was to examine BGU’s compliance with UJ’s Senate Resolution as well as get input and guidance from Palestinians and Israelis. A series of meetings were held with academics and students from BGU. A substantial amount of time was spent in the West Bank at two of the most prestigious Palestinian universities: An-Najah National University (Nablus) and Birzeit University (Birzeit). Meetings were held with representatives from the Palestine Water Authority and, furthermore, several nongovernmental organizations were consulted with. This report presents just some of the information and evidence resulting from the investigation.

Findings of the investigation

The findings of the investigation are damning of BGU’s collaboration with the Israeli occupation, its military and apartheid practices. This report provides detailed, factual evidence and information regarding BGU’s multi-faceted support which BGU actively nurtures in order to further the policies of the Israeli state and its violation of human rights.

As a thorough indictment of BGU’s contribution to human rights violations, these findings are relevant to all institutions that currently engage with BGU in any capacity and severely calls into question any such relationships.

More specifically, on the basis of these findings, the report demonstrates a clear failure by BGU to meet the criteria established by the UJ Senate Resolution. BGU’s practices and policies, the report concludes, are incompatible with UJ’s values and it is clear that UJ’s vision as a transformed institution (within a global academic community) will be seriously and irredeemably undermined by any relationship with BGU.

- Active collaboration with the Israeli military and occupation

The report demonstrates BGU’s active role in supporting and extending the efficacy of the Israeli military and the occupation. Exposing BGU’s development of research specifically aimed for application in military uses (such as un-manned robot technologies) as well as BGU’s participation in programs specifically sponsored by and benefitting the Israeli Defense Forces (such as an advanced technologies park and the Israeli state’s atomic research programmes and facilities), this report documents BGU’s ongoing, deliberate and wideranging support for the Israeli military and illegal occupation.

- BGU threatens Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Attempting to limit the pressure of internal and international criticism, the Israeli state has initiated a series of repressive measures (including the widely-condemned Prohibition on Boycott Bill) as part of a concerted effort to limit the purview of academic freedom and political expression. Based on evidence provided mainly by primary sources this report exposes not only a failure by BGU to oppose such concerning measures, but also its active support for extending state efforts to limit academic freedom and political expression. BGU’s president, Professor Rivka Carmi, conspicuously and actively supports the attempts by the Israeli Government to curb academic freedom and dissenting voices on Israeli University campuses. There is a trend that BGU vigorously and consistently undermines and disciplines groups, students and academics who voice their criticism of Israel or their support for Palestinian rights.

In this regard, the values of BGU are in stark contrast to the values of academic freedom and respect for diversity which are promoted by UJ.

- BGU’s water research project contributes to the violation of human rights

The current relationship between UJ and BGU involves research into water purification and energy technologies. The report contextualises the water research agreement between UJ and BGU by highlighting the manner in which water policies of the Israeli State are discriminatory against Palestinians (particularly the residents of the West Bank) and are in flagrant contravention of International Law.

The findings of the report demonstrate how the research supported and undertaken by BGU forms part of an intricate nexus which supports and entrenches the discriminatory policies on water availability consumption within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Collaborative links with the activities of the Israeli Water Authority and the Jewish National Fund are exposed as a necessary and pernicious result of any relationship with BGU’s water research units.

The report makes it clear that UJ’s pursuit of academic excellence will in no way be served by becoming entrenched within research relationships that contribute directly and indirectly contribute to human rights abuses.

- BGU perpetuates structural discrimination against Palestinians

This report uncovers the manner in which BGU not only mirrors Israeli discriminatory policies and practices, but actively reinforces its exclusions and differential treatment. The report analyses and systematically uncovers how BGU’s preferential treatment for military enlisted students further cements and extends the inequality already prevalent within the make-up of tertiary educational institutions in Israel.

UJ PETITION COMMITTEE

www.ujpetition.com

15 March 2011