The University of Haifa in Israel has announced that it will be giving Frederik Willem de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid-era in South Africa, an honorary PhD next week.
In recent days, the University of Haifa caused outrage after the administration expelled two Arab students for organising a demonstration to mark the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when Israel ethnically cleansed Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants.
According to the Arabs 48 news website, after a meeting of the board of trustees, the university said that it had decided to grant de Klerk an honorary PhD for “his leadership abilities that led to the end of the apartheid policy in South Africa, as well as for his continuous global effort to support equality, plurality and racial co-existence.”
The former South African president, who served in office between 1989 and 1994, helped to broker the deal that ended apartheid and transformed South Africa into a multi-racial democracy by entering into negotiations that resulted in all citizens having equal rights, including voting.
His efforts led to the formation of the first ever multi-racial government in the country. He received the Noble Peace Prize jointly with Nelson Mandela in 1993.
Commenting on the news, Arab 48 posed several questions to think about:
How can a university honour a leader who fought for multi-racial democracy while it suppresses the minimum bases of co-existence? Like the freedom of speech and the freedom to commemorate the Nakba?
How can a university honour de Klerk without also honouring his partner in peace Mandela, who fought against de Klerk’s regime, even after his death? And if that happens, would Mandela have approved?
Does de Klerk, who recognised and legalised the demands of the anti-apartheid organisations in South Africa, know that the university that will honour him has dismissed two students for commemorating an event that symbolises their people’s history of oppression?
The very first step for the reconciliation brokered by de Klerk was his recognition of the crime of apartheid and its victims, in order to achieve justice – the crime of the white regime and the black victim. Then, forgiveness and reconciliation were achieved.
Arab 48 wondered how a president of a county, who dissolved the system of apartheid, could accept being rewarded by a university that is considered an arm of an imperialist regime practicing apartheid just a few kilometres away from the hall where he will be honoured?
Arab 48 concluded by saying that de Klerk had accepted to head an apartheid regime 25 years ago; thus, it is not strange for him to accept an honorary certificate from a hypocrite university that suppresses freedoms in the morning and honours freedom fighters in the evening.