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Statement on the boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions at the University of Cape Town

29 March 2019 – The European Students’ Union (ESU) is aware of the ongoing campaign calling for a boycott on Israeli academic institutions at the University of Cape Town (UCT). ESU believes that this resolution is not only a threat to academic freedom but, consequently a threat to the intellectual and social development of all students of UCT.

While recognising that academic institutions are operating in areas around the world experiencing human rights violations, discrimination of minority groups and/or conflicts, ESU believes it is important that these institutions should not be judged and/or limited based on their respective territorial disputes.

We thus express our solidarity with those opposing this resolution, not for any political motive but because we believe higher education institutions (HEIs) should support ideological diversity, inclusivity and tolerance within their student communities. Such values enable the robust exchange of ideas and knowledge that sets a precedent for academia as a core institution of our society and today’s modern civilisation. This, in turn, requires HEI governing bodies:

  1. To equally protect students from behaviour that violates their rights to freedom of expression and full participation in educational governing structures,
  2. To encourage peaceful dialogue in developing solutions to problems, refraining from using violence, intimidation, threats and bans.
  3. To commit to enabling all students equitable opportunities, regardless of identity, opinion or legally protected status.
  4. To uphold the ideals of human rights as stipulated in ESU’s Students Rights Charter

Furthermore, there is concern that this resolution may foster prejudiced discrimination based on anti-Semitism. Blurred lines and misunderstandings can create a negative impact on campus for Jewish students, putting them at risk of becoming a targeted minority group at university.

As written in ESU’s anti-discrimination statement, ESU strongly condemns all forms of discrimination and structures enabling discrimination, including but not limited to discrimination on the basis of political conviction, religion, ethnic or cultural origin. Discrimination can never be accepted and needs to be actively countered.

Therefore, today the European Students’ Union joins the call for academic freedom for all students at UCT. We urge all those who believe in these values to join the cause by signing this petition. Finally, the European Students’ Union calls on all relevant stakeholders to thoroughly reflect on the implications of this resolution and that they may recognize the potential of dialogue as a strategic tool for peaceful conflict resolution which can help produce long-term, sustainable solutions and fundamental societal changes.

On behalf of the Executive Committee of the European Students’ Union


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