Ben Gurion U
Ben Gurion U Israel news photo: bgu.ac.il

Israel’s Ben Gurion University is worried that a South African university may stop a joint project designed to solve Johannesburg water pollution.

The University of Johannesburg's senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a petition signed by Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu and 200 government officials and academics who want to cut off ties with the Israeli university because of the presence of Jews in Judea and Samaria.

“Israeli universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime by active choice," Tutu wrote in a South African newspaper this week. "While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” 

He accused Ben Gurion University of  “maintaining links to both the Israeli defense forces and the arms industry,” and he wrote that it “structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. For example, BGU offers a fast-tracked program of training to Israeli Air Force pilots."

Ironically, Ben Gurion University has been headed by two presidents who became Labor party Knesset Members and are outspokenly in favor of expelling most Jews from Judea and Samaria and creating a Palestinian Authority state in their place. The university is also a hotbed for left-wing and Bedouin activists whose views are non-Zionist.

The Be’er Sheva-based university said is it “disturbed” by the campaign to cancel a research agreement to collaborate on biotechnology and water purification. It pointed out that then-South African President Nelson Mandela in 1997 received an honorary doctorate from Ben-Gurion University and that he ”applauded the university's accomplishments” in his acceptance speech.

“We have a center of excellence which represents the best in the traditions of the Jewish people: a sense of mission, internationalism and inventiveness,” Ben Gurion officials said in a statement. "The joint research project is designed to solve real problems of water contamination in a reservoir near Johannesburg and as such is for the direct benefit of the residents of the region. BGU sees this joint project as an opportunity to make its well-reputed expertise in water research available to improve the welfare of the South African people.

“Those opposed to this collaboration accuse BGU of ‘abusing academic freedom, abusing human rights and being an accomplice to an Apartheid government system in Israel.’ These accusations – and others made in their statements -- are totally false and based upon ignorance and prejudice.”

The following universities, to which Jews are denied access, are located in areas under Palestinian Authority control: Al-Quds Univ., An-Najah National Univ., Bethlehem Univ., Birzeit Univ,,: Al Aqsa, U., University College of Applied Sciences, Edward Said National Music Conservatory, Ibrhimieh College, Hebron Univ., Palestine Polytechnic Univ. In Gaza, the list of universities includes: Al-Aqsa Univ., University College of Applied Sciences, Al-Azhar Univ., Islamic Univ. of Gaza, and others.