Stellenbosch University senate members call for ceasefire in Gaza

Thuli Madonsela is one of more than 100 signatories

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A protester at a pro-Palestinian march in Cape Town on 1 November holds up a poster to police. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

  • Many members of the senate of Stellenbosch University have joined calls around the world for a ceasefire in Gaza.
  • They have signed a statement that also effectively calls for a boycott of institutions linked to the Israeli Defense Forces.
  • About 100 of the university’s approximately 380 members of senate have signed.
  • The statement is expected to be discussed in an upcoming senate meeting.

Over 100 members of the senate of the Stellenbosch University have signed a statement calling for a ceasefire and condemning the killing of civilians in Gaza.

The statement has been submitted to the senate for discussion. A special meeting of the senate to further debate the matter is expected.

The statement condemns the destruction of academic institutions as well as the killing of teachers and university staff in the current war.

Among the signatories is former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, who has been vocal on social media in calling for a ceasefire.

It follows calls for a ceasefire from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT).

According to Al Jazeera, all universities in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed as a result of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. More than 90 university professors have also been killed. More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military in the last six months. Most of these are women and children. There are thousands more under collapsed rubble, presumed dead.

The statement reads: “We, a collection of individual members of the Stellenbosch University Senate, note with deep concern the ongoing massacre and continued mass displacement of the population of Gaza by the Israeli military since 7 October 2023.

“We are appalled by the mass killing of innocent civilians and are dismayed that the Israeli military has targeted non-combatants in Gaza – men, women and children – in their retaliation against Hamas.

“We note and mourn the deaths of Israeli civilians in the 7 October attacks on Israel by Hamas. However, no crimes inflicted on Israeli civilians, nor any military action taken by Israel, whether in self-defence or in pursuit of its military objectives, can ever justify genocidal actions in retaliation.

“This level of destruction is brutal and barbaric. The extreme trauma of the surviving population continues to worsen as they bury their dead and fear for their lives. The universities in Gaza have been destroyed, some of which were destroyed after their capture by the Israeli military. They are being used as detention centres or military bases.”

Professor Ashraf Kagee, in the university’s Department of Psychology, is the first signatory. Kagee said everyone in society should join the mass call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

He told GroundUp that he had been to Gaza several times, doing work for an organisation called the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme. “People live difficult lives. There is a lot of oppression. There has been a siege in Gaza for several years And of course, now people fear for their lives on a daily basis because of these unrelenting attacks.”

Kagee said he experienced a lot of harassment from Israeli bureaucracy when he was there. “Unfortunately, the organisation’s building is now destroyed as a result of the bombings. Some of my students have been killed in the attacks as well.”

“We want a ceasefire, a cessation of attacks on civilians. We condemn the destruction of the education sector in Gaza and the killing of teachers and university staff. We want humanitarian aid to come into Gaza as quickly as possible,” he stressed.

The statement expresses support for academic colleagues in Gaza who “were surviving under appalling conditions.”

“The manipulation of the definition of antisemitism to include any criticism of Israel or Zionism is both intellectually without foundation and a violation of academic freedom,” it says.

It also urged all “colleagues at Stellenbosch University and all other institutions of higher learning not to knowingly enter into relations, or continue relations with, any research group and/or network that includes current members of the Israeli Defence Force, and/ or any member of the broader Israeli military establishment.”

TOPICS:  Israel-Palestine

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Dear Editor

I wish to commend the universities in the Western Cape who have called for a ceasefire in Gaza, as well as for an end to genocide. The bombing of universities and the murder of many professors is a form of epistemicide. This cannot be allowed to continue. Israeli universities should not be able to enjoy normal relations with academic colleagues in South Africa. We call on the whole senate of Stellenbosch university to take a stand to underline the fact that you have turned your back on apartheid not only in South Africa, but everywhere. Never again… never ever again.

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