Johannesburg – The Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has officially cut ties with Israel.
“The Council of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) has resolved that TUT will not forge any ties with the State of Israel or any of its organisations and institutions,” TUT spokesperson on the issue Professor Rasigan Maharajh told the African News Agency (ANA) during an interview on Wednesday.
A December 7 press release from TUT stated: “As a progressive university in a democratic South Africa, we want to affirm that TUT will not sign any agreements or enter into scientific partnerships until such time that Israel ends its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory."
“The university will not stand back and accept the violations of the Israeli government when it confines the movement of Palestinian children and youth on their own land and restricts their ability to access education through destroying their schools,” added the statement.
TUT’s press release followed a Council Resolution on November 24 which incorporated discussions and debates in various faculties, the Senate and its Institutional Forum.
Prior to the November Resolution, a TUT position paper in May on ties with Israel was formulated. Maharajh was one of the authors.
“As a 'peoples university’, TUT is enjoined with the University of Johannesburg, and progressive Palestinian and Israeli academics in further encouraging the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all academic institutions in Israel as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s illegal occupation and system of apartheid,” said Maharajh.
As this resolution derives from key constituencies in Gauteng, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga (TUT Learning Sites and Campuses), the government of South Africa should also be emboldened to hear the voice of the peoples of the country condemning the violent and continued occupation of Palestine, he added.
However, Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa Ayallet Black told the African News Agency (ANA) that TUT’s move was surprising.
“As a country that prides itself on freedom of academia, religion, a diverse society and universities that rank high within the top 200 in the world, we are surprised that TUT as an academic institution has shut a basic principle of communication and cooperation,” said Black.
South African criticism of Israel is growing.
One of the controversial issues to be discussed at the ANC’s forthcoming 54th National Conference in Gauteng, from December 16 to 20, is the possible downgrading, or even closure, of the South African Embassy in Tel Aviv.
“As a constitutional democracy premised on the recognition of human rights, the Republic of South Africa must urgently discuss downgrading the status of its relationship with Israel,” said Maharajh.
TUT’s decision to cut all ties with the Jewish state also comes in the wake of strong condemnation from the South African government, and various political and human rights organisations across the country, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while stating that Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.
Under international law East Jerusalem is occupied territory and all international embassies have based themselves in Tel Aviv until the final status of Jerusalem is negotiated through talks.
“The announcement by the Trump regime of its intentions to establish its embassy in Jerusalem further escalates tensions,” said Maharajh.
“As guided by the founding President of the post-apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who declared that: ‘We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians', the Republic of South Africa must also condemn the actions of the Trump regime and work harder at fostering solidarity and cooperation with the peoples of Palestine.”