UCT4Palestine celebrates victory for Palestine after Senate resolutions

UCT Pro-Palestine supporters gathered during Israeli Apartheid week earlier this year calling for an academic boycott of Israeli linked persons and institutions. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

UCT Pro-Palestine supporters gathered during Israeli Apartheid week earlier this year calling for an academic boycott of Israeli linked persons and institutions. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 22, 2024


Cape Town - There was celebration at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on Friday after the UCT senate adopted two motions calling for the protection and preservation of education and scholarship in Gaza, and for the university to disallow research collaborations with members of the Israel Defence Force (IDF).

UCT4Palestine – a coalition of students, student societies, workers, academics, alumni, and other pro-Palestine supporters – held a march from UCT Plaza to the Kramer Building where the senate was to decide on whether to adopt the two motions for council consideration.

A mass solidarity gathering and meeting took place, which featured speeches as well as artistic expressions of solidarity.

UCT4Palestine is calling for an immediate academic boycott of Israel in the context of the genocide in Gaza.

“The choice that faces UCT, as a mass of students and workers, alumni and friends, is whether we choose for our university to stand with genocide through flows of intellectual complicities and financial support for the Israeli settler colonial university industry, or to boycott Israeli academic institutions,” read the statement by UCT4Palestine.

On Friday, the senate met for the second continuation meeting, which saw the two motions adopted through a majority vote.

The resolutions will now be presented to the UCT council for consideration.

The resolution on the destruction of scholarship and education in Gaza saw the senate resolve to: “Call, again, for an immediate ceasefire, the passage of humanitarian aid and the return of all captives as contained in the senate’s resolution of November 17, 2023; condemn the destruction of the education sector in Gaza and the massive scale of killing of teachers and university staff in the current war; urge the international community to ensure that the provision of humanitarian aid includes the restoration of the education sector in Gaza; express concern and opposition to any attempts to curtail academic freedom by labelling criticism of Israel or Zionist policies as anti-Semitism; reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s conflation of critique of Zionism and Israel’s policies as anti-Semitism in favour of the Jerusalem Declaration’s dynamic understanding of what constitutes anti-Semitism; express support for academic colleagues in Gaza who are surviving under appalling conditions and our intention to assist in the rebuilding of the academic sector after the war; and express solidarity with academic colleagues victimised for their willingness to speak out against the educaracide in Gaza.”

The second resolution adopted related to research collaborations with members of the IDF and the wider Israeli military establishment.

“In terms of the resolution adopted by the senate, no UCT academic may enter into relations, or continue relations with, any research group and/or network whose author affiliations are with the Israeli Defense Forces, and/ or the broader Israeli military establishment.”

At council level, the motions could be returned to the senate with request(s) for amendments or a vote on whether to adopt and implement the motions will be taken.

“At the organisational level, however, UCT4Palestine and its comrades will be working to bring the previously rejected motions of full academic boycott back to senate and demand a revote,” said UCT4Palestine member Muminah Salie.

UCT Student Representative Council (SRC) secretary-general Babokile Rakhale said the SRC and larger student population were in support of the motions and the SRC has urged academics, particularly those who were senate members, to also place their weight behind the motions.

The mobilisation ahead of the senate voting was to express solidarity with Palestinians and to show senate members that the larger university community backed a full academic boycott of Israeli-linked institutions by the university, Rakhale said.

“Although, we are under no illusion, we know that this has to be entertained at council and the recent council at the university has proven to be anti-progressive, many times. Sometimes they appeal to reason. We are under no illusion, we know there will be attempts to push back against the two motions,” he said.

Several attempts were made to reach the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) for comment.

When reached, SAUJS Western Cape chairperson Erin Dodo declined to comment and further elaborated that she was with family preparing for Pesach.

Cape SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) executive director Daniel Bloch was also contacted for comment but said he was not able to due to the short notice of the request.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said as the matter was still ongoing and yet to be put to council, UCT was not able to share any further details at this stage.

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