Pro-PA groups remove Israelis from South Africa conference

Seven professors from Israeli universities will not participate in South Africa conference after pressure from boycott groups.

Elad Benari ,

BDS activists
BDS activists

Seven professors from Israeli universities will not participate in a conference on Historical Trauma at a university in South Africa after pressure from boycott groups against Israel, JTA reported on Thursday.

The four-day conference, entitled “Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation: The Light and Shadow of Historical Trauma,” will begin on December 4 at Stellenbosch University.

Last week, 18 pro-Palestinian Arab groups called on the conference’s organizers, speakers, participants and sponsors to withdraw Israeli participation in the conference. Among the groups are South African Jews for a Free Palestine.

In a letter to delegates posted Tuesday on the website of the conference, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, chair of organizing committee, said that he had been “in contact with the Israeli academics, and they have all since rescinded their participation at the conference and will no longer be part of the program.”

Reports in South African media and elsewhere said that the invitations to the Israeli academics to participate had been withdrawn, according to JTA.

The professors came from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Gobodo-Madikizela noted that the academics’ research “involved disrupting the Israel narrative” and that “none of the Israeli participants we invited … represents the position of the state of Israel against Palestinians.”

“The call to boycott is an important one. The problem is whether a distinction can be made to permit an Israeli academic to take part whose work clearly exposes, rather than normalizes, experiences that are painful and traumatic. Clearly, the rationale for the boycott does not call for the exclusion of someone whose work unambiguously exposes the very conditions that led to the call for a boycott,” he added.

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the ruling the African National Congress (ANC) party several months ago called for the downgrading of the South African Embassy in Israel due to what it said was the “lack of commitment from Israel on Palestine.”

The government in South Africa has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. One such example was when the ANC party proposed new rules regarding dual citizenship meant to stop South African citizens from joining the IDF.

South Africa withdrew its ambassador to Israel in May in protest against the deadly violence along the Israel-Gaza border which was openly encouraged and instigated by Hamas, which openly admitted that most of those who were killed in those violent riots were members of the group.

Earlier this year, South Africa's Sports Minister boycotted a Davis Cup tennis match against Israel, citing "Israeli discrimination and occupation.".