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South African Academics Urge University of Free State To Cancel Agreement With Haifa University – an Apartheid Institution

Academics call on University of Free State to terminate the Haifa Universtity partnership reminiscent of apartheid-era academic ties between Israel and the apartheid South African state and its institutions, including universities.

As South African academics and intellectuals concerned with human rights, racism and colonialism, we are deeply concerned that the University of the Free State (UFS) has signed a partnership agreement with Haifa University.

The latter Israeli university is deeply complicit in imposing an apartheid-like system on Palestinians and implicated in gross human rights abuses by supporting the Israeli Defence Force (IDF). Simultaneously, Israel’s efforts to cripple Palestinian higher education continues relentlessly. There are many Palestinian academics and students in prison.

Israeli academic institutions collude with occupation, ethnic cleansing and racism in practical terms, whether through engineering, geography, demography, hydrology, or psychology, amongst other disciplines. Haifa University is a good case study in how Israeli universities play this role. Haifa University:

  • discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel through exclusionary practices;
  • houses the Department for Geo-Strategy, one of whose objectives is to ‘solve’ Israel’s ‘demographic problem’ - a euphemism for ‘ethnically cleansing’ Israel of the indigenous Palestinians, who now make up around 20 percent of the population (excluding the West Bank, Gaza and the millions of Palestinian refugees);
  • sponsors a scholarship solely for Israeli military veterans, thus supporting the Israeli occupation machinery;
  • offered special assistance to students who served in Israel’s 2008 attack on the Gaza Strip, called ‘Operation Cast Lead’ by Israel, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, of whom more than 900 were civilians, including 288 children;
  • hosted the Havatzalot programme until 2019, an elite IDF programme through which Israeli students are trained to be commanders in intelligence and includes a military training component. There is an IDF military base on its campus. Students in this programme wore military uniforms and carried their weapons on campus. Universities that are part of the Havatzalot Programme are required to supply the military with personal information about academic and other staff. High-ranking officers managing the programme regularly monitor classes.

The agreement is reminiscent of apartheid-era academic relationships in which Israel collaborated with the apartheid South African state (in intelligence, military matters, and nuclear weapons development) and its institutions, including universities.

Together with trade unions and student organisations, we call on UFS to immediately terminate its agreement with Haifa University. We also call on Universities South Africa (USAf) and the Minister of Education to hold the management and leadership of UFS accountable. Continuing with this agreement signals that UFS is not serious about breaking its bonds with its apartheid past, does not take issues of racism seriously, and does not care about transformation. There can be no other interpretation since Haifa University supports racist practices and trains a racist army protecting an apartheid state.

Statement issued by the South African Academic Network Against Apartheid Israel (SAANAI) an affiliate of the South African BDS Coalition. We support the call from the overwhelming number of our Palestinian colleagues affiliated to Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel ( To contact us, or for more information write to


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