Pressure from Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists has led South Africa's University of Stellenbosch to withdraw invitations for Israeli academics to attend a major conference, it was reported yesterday. Activists, including the Jews for a Free Palestine group, cited Israel's racist Nation State Law, human rights violations and the draconian measures taken by the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
As reported in The Citizen, the aim of the conference is to deepen understanding of trans-generational trauma and to develop strategies to deal with the repercussions of genocide, colonial oppression, and mass violence. This, insist BDS activists, is clearly incompatible with what is happening in Israel today.
Seven academics from three Israeli universities – the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev – were supposed to attend the conference.
"The conference organisers called me and told me that I could not participate because of certain difficulties," explained Professor Emerita Shifra Sagy, the chair of the Martin-Springer Centre for the Study of Conflict Management at Ben-Gurion University "This is the first time I have faced an academic boycott. It is very serious. I participate in many conferences as I feel part of the international academic society. Therefore, I was surprised, now, mainly because the conference is about reconciliation."
The move was welcomed by Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa, who commended the conference organisers for continuing to advance the academic boycott against Israel.