PRESS RELEASE: UKZN pulls the plug on the Israeli Ambassador

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has pulled the plug on the Israeli deputy ambassador to South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein.
Finkelstein was due to speak at UKZN later on today, Monday (21 May 2012), but yesterday afternoon, UKZN's Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ayee, sent an email informing his staff that he has cancelled the lecture:
"I have re-considered the sensitivities that the visit of the Israeli Deputy Ambassador have generated. Given the negative publicity that the visit will give UKZN, I hereby cancel the visit and the lecture by the Israeli Deputy Ambassador scheduled for tomorrow, Monday, 21 May 2012….[the Israeli ambassador will bring] likely reputational damage for the institution [which] is not in the interest of all of us." **
Professor Ayee's announcement came after the university was called on by students and staff to cancel the hosting of Finkelstein as it would have violated the "academic boycott" of Israel. Palestinians issued a call in 2005 for a program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and basic human rights.
Early last year, the University of Johannesburg became the world's first university to impose an academic boycott on Israel by ending its institutional relationship with Israel's Ben-Gurion University. In addition several student movements, including the South African Students Congress (SASCO), have publicly backed the BDS call
UKZN School of Social Sciences senior lecturer, Dr Lubna Nadvi commented:"This is a positive and encouraging move by UKZN. Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with - including academics and students. It can be safe to assume that the cancellation by the Deputy Vice Chancellor represents the general sentiment among students and staff".

The decision by UKZN is likely to infuriate Israeli officials who are becoming increasingly impatient with South Africa. Last week the SA government announced that it will be banning mislabeled Israeli settlement products. Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, responded saying that: "all these things are characteristic of racism".
It was reported yesterday, by the Israeli press, that Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, would today (Monday) be summoning the South African ambassador for a reprimand. It is now as yet known if the meeting took place and the contents of the meeting.
Meanwhile, Professor Haidar Eid, from the Gaza Strip, hailed the UKZN's decision: "Palestinians welcome UKZN's cancellation of the ill-conceived visit by an Israeli diplomat. This is another sign of the swelling South African support for BDS against Israeli occupation and apartheid that led last year to the precedent-setting decision by the University of Johannesburg to sever links with a complicit Israeli university, and this year to the Ministry of Trade and Industry's ban on false labeling of Israel's colonies' products. We are inspired by these expressions of genuine solidarity."
Dr Lubna Nadvi, UZKN School of Social Sciences: /
Muhammed Desai, BDS South Africa:
+27 (0) 84 211 9988 /
**A copy of the email can be provided on request.