South Africa's University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has pulled the plug on the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein. This is yet another blow to Israel-South Africa relations that have recently become tense.
Finkelstein was due to speak at UKZN later on today, Monday (21 May 2012), but yesterday afternoon, UKZN's Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, sent an email informing his staff that he has cancelled the lecture:
"I have re-considered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli Deputy Ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, 21 May 2012….[the Israeli ambassador will bring] likely reputational damage for the institution [which] is not in the interest of all of us."
Professor Ayee's announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the "academic boycott" of Israel. Palestinians issued a call to the international community in 2005 for a program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and basic human rights.
Early last year, another SA University, the University of Johannesburg, became the world's first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relation with Israel's Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SA's largest and oldest studdent body), have publicly backed the academic boycott and BDS call.
UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi commented:"This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with – including academics and students. It can be safe to assume that UKZN's cancellation represents the general sentiment among students and staff".