Statement of the Executive Committee of the Post Graduate Association on the matter of the visit by Israeli Students\Youth into South African campuses including our own.
As the executive committee of the Post Graduate Association, we affirm our support for the boycott of the coming visit by Israeli students arriving on the 11 August 2011, and all their activities in the country. This boycott is in response to the request made by Palestinian students to us, and also affirms our own position on the matter. We note that:
- Based on the self-proclamation of the visitors, they come to defend and promote the image of their government, Israel. That is, tell positive stories about a regime accused of war crimes and engaged in modern day colonial occupation of Palestine.
- That most if not all have served or still do in the Israeli Defence Force colonial occupation activities which they pride themselves of. As one of them explicitly stated that they took part in the very 2009 massacres in Gaza which received huge opposition by the international community, including our government.
- That the Palestinian students, based on their knowledge of this visit have called upon us, South African students, to boycott this visit as a way to contribute to their struggle for liberation.
Therefore, as the Executive Committee of the PGA we join in the broad boycott of the visit and their activities and encourage all members of the association to do the same. This we do in defence of our values as a University, these being; human rights, equality, democracy and freedom - As we do not recognise these to be upheld by the government of Israel in its treatment of the Palestinian people.
We believe that there is no other conversation any justice loving, human right respecting and democracy practicing people can enter in with those who live in Israel, who believe in its policies and its actions in Palestine or those who support it from abroad, except one that tries to address the transformation of Israel’s regime. That is to say, we should no longer hear any other story about how great a country Israel is; rather we must ask what is to be done, by those in Israel and in Palestine to transform the regime therein today. Thus, a form of engagement is only one - boycott and isolate Israel till it ends its occupation of Palestinian territories and transforms into a place that belongs to all who live in it. In addition, if you are in Israel and care about these values, engage in efforts by internal groups to contribute to the just struggle to this end.
In conclusion, our University must embrace and protect the values of democracy, equality and freedom. It must be a space where freedoms of expression and association are protected and practiced. However, we believe that such freedoms are abused when the University opens itself for those who pride themselves to be part of war crimes, or those who partake in the military activities of modern day colonial occupation of Palestine or those who seek to defend and promote its image. We point out that the 2009 Budlender Report (which investigated the hosting of accused Israeli war criminal, Lieutenant-Colonel David Benjamin at Wits) supports this position: we are under no obligation as Wits University to open our spaces for anyone who offends our values. For us, this Israeli students’ mission and visit does exactly that.
May all other students structures, as well as the University as a whole, engage in boycott of these students/youth as a way to contribute to the struggle for liberation in Palestine, but also as a way to demonstrate our commitment to our values. Boycott is indeed a form of engagement, not disengagement.
Post Graduate Association
Executive Committee Statement, 10 August, 2011