By Ronnie Kasrils
An international boycott helped end apartheid – now South Africans are leading world opposition to racism in Israel
Prominent South Africans including Desmond Tutu have endorsed recent moves to boycott Israeli institutions
When Chief Albert Luthuli made a call for the international community to support a boycott of apartheid South Africa in 1958, the response was a widespread and dedicated movement that played a significant role in ending apartheid. Amid the sporting boycotts, the pledges of playwrights and artists, the actions by workers to stop South African goods from entering local markets and the constant pressure on states to withdraw their support for the apartheid regime, the role of academics also came to the fore.
One significant move was the resolution taken by 150 Irish academics not to accept academic posts or appointments in apartheid South Africa. In 1971, the council of Trinity College Dublin took a decision not to own shares in any company that traded or had a subsidiary that traded in the Republic. The council later resolved that the university would not retain any formal or institutional links with any academic or state institution in South Africa.
Almost four decades later, the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is gaining ground again in South Africa, this time against Israeli apartheid.
Earlier this month, more than 100 academics across South Africa, from over 13 universities, pledged their support to a University of Johannesburg initiative for ending collaboration with the Israeli occupation. The campaign has since grown to include up to 200 supporters. The nationwide academic petition calling for the termination of an agreement between the University of Johannesburg and the Israeli Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has attracted widespread attention.
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