Following protests over Jewish nation-state law and violence against Palestinians in Gaza, a South African university cancelled Israeli academics' invitation to participate in a conference. The decision by the organizing committee of the "Recognition, Reparation, Reconciliation" event set to be held next week at Stellenbosch University came after protesters called on the organizers in a letter to dis-invite Israeli academics.
"Given our own settler colonial and apartheid past, our freedom struggle and the legacy of inequality, violence, racism and trauma we live with today, we find the false symmetry between an aggressor state and the popular resistance movement to be egregious. We cannot abide by a move which effectively 'normalizes' Israeli apartheid," the groups wrote in the letter, as reported by the Times of Israel.
South African groups that back the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, urged for the withdrawal of Israeli academics from the conference.
"The rationale for the call of the cultural and academic boycott of Israel is for Israel to extend full human and civil rights to all citizens of Israel, to end the occupation and enable the Palestinian right to return. Notably, all these demands are consistent with international humanitarian law," said Roshan Dadoo from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, as reported by Palestinian news agency, WAFA.
Israel adopted a "nation-state" law in July, declaring that only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country, stirring anger from the international community who said it was racist. Largely symbolic, the law was enacted just after the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel. Palestinian leaders condemned the move. The bill also removes Arabic as an official language alongside Hebrew, downgrading it to a "special status" that enables its continued use in Israeli institutions.
For the last eight months, Palestinians in Gaza have been staging regular demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone to demand the right to return to their homes in historical Palestine from which they were driven out in 1948. Since the rallies began, more than 220 Palestinians have been killed, and thousands more injured by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone. Israel has been criticized by a U.N. human rights body for its killing of protesters in Gaza and treatment of the Palestinians, declaring it as a "war crime" under the Statute of Rome.