What is the nature of Nelson Mandela University’s relationship with Israel?


  • Dr J Cherry. Development Studies, Lecturer and Community Activist, Nelson Mandela University
  • Dr N Jooste. Director, Office for International Education, Nelson Mandela University
  • Mr C Volpe. Local businessman and intellectual

Venue: Conference Centre, North Campus
Time: 3 March 2010

Synopsis of debate

The one view in the debate holds that Israel should be isolated as a country as measure to force it to recognise the rights of Palestine and the people of Palestine. South Africa also faced international sanctions during the apartheid period as a means to force the ruling party to abandon it policies in favour of democracy.

A different view is that a higher education institution, endowed with academic freedom, is not compelled to act in the same way as a national state. Academic freedom promotes the exchange and growth of knowledge which benefits the greater good of humanity. Therefore relationships cannot be strict tunnels imposed by the state on to it higher education system. Notwithstanding, academic freedom, higher education institutions are governed by independent decision making bodies guaranteed by statute.

Some believe that higher education institutions throughout the world should cease all forms of relationships with Israel. The hope is that isolation will diminish that country’s economic, social and cultural sustainability. However, other experiences have shown that isolationist practices have produced unique capabilities, not comparable to other democracies.

The key lesson from the debate was that internal democracy must prevail before any form of sectionalist decision is attempted.