South African professor attacks 'apartheid' regime in Israel

From the archive (legacy material)

Polly Curtis | The Guardian | 11 July 2002

A leading South African university vice-chancellor has pledged support to the British academic boycott of Israel, comparing the Middle Eastern country’s regime to that of apartheid South Africa.
However, Professor Brian Figaji, of Peninsula Technikon University, warned against using a “big brush” approach to all Israelis, and condemned the sacking last week of two Israeli academics from a small British journal.
Mona Baker, a professor of linguistics at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, dismissed Gideon Toury and Miriam Shlesinger, who worked on two journals owned by her company, because they worked for Israeli universities.
Professor Figaji said he had recently turned down invitations to take part in conferences in Israel.
“I will not go there under the present circumstances – this is a political statement against the Israeli state. It looks too much like South African oppression,” he said.
Referring to the British boycott, he added: “So little is being done internationally vis-a-vis the plight of the Palestinians, a boycott is a way of signalling to the world that what is happening is unacceptable and inhumane.”
The British-led boycott of Israel by academics has sparked a raging debate, with hundreds of academics around the world signing petitions against Israel and counter petitions against the boycott.
Lecturers’ union Natfhe has encouraged its members to consider severing academic links with Israel.
At its annual conference in April, it passed a motion, which included the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Palestinian Authority areas.
The Association of University Teachers stopped short of adopting a similar stance at its annual conference in May, but called for the European Union to stop funding Israeli research institutions until Israel abides by UN resolutions and opens serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians,” it read.
The AUT was at the forefront of academic boycotts against South Africa during the 1970s and 80s. British Academics boycotted the country for nearly 20 years during the apartheid regime.