CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Nearly 1,000 scholars from the UK, Ireland and now South Africa have pledged to boycott Israeli academic institutions over what they describe as "the deeply disturbing illegal occupation of Palestinian land."
In excess of 200 scholars in South Africa on Tuesday declared their support for the boycott, adding to those of more than 600 who pledged a similar boycott in the UK in October, and a subsequent pledge by more than 120 Irish scholars.
The South African scholars said Tuesday they would no longer accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions and would not participate in conferences organized or funded by them.
The group however has said it will continue to work with individual Israelis who acknowledge the plight of the Palestinians.
"We will maintain this position until the State of Israel complies with international law, and respects universal principles of human rights," a joint statement by the group said.
The South African university professors and scholars at research institutes and think tanks, said they are "deeply disturbed by Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land, the intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and it's apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement."
The statement appears to be identical to that issued by British scholars in October.
"Israeli universities are at the heart of Israel's violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people. These signatures were all collected despite the pressures that can be put on people not to criticise the state of Israel. Now that the invitation to join the Commitment is in the public domain, we anticipate many more to join us," Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, Professor of Human Rights Law at London School of Economics said in October when the first 300 of the UK scholars signed up to the boycott.
"Israel's ongoing oppression of Palestinians has led tens of thousands of Palestinians to take to the streets in mass protest and is causing a sea change in attitudes towards Israel across the UK university sector. We will be conducting a campaign across the country's universities over the coming months, and inviting fellow academics to contact us if they wish to sign the commitment," he said.
This week's news that the academic boycott had spread to South Africa is more than symbolic in that it rekindled memories of global boycotts by scholars in the latter years of the last century which contributing to the ending of apartheid in South Africa.
The Teachers' Union of Ireland in 2013 was the first teaching union in Europe to endorse the call for an academic boycott of Israel.
The latest move by South African academia coincides with the approval Wednesday of an additional 891 housing units by the Jerusalem Local Planning and Building Committee which will be built in the contested southeast Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
In November the Israeli government, amidst criticism ahead of the summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, temporarily froze plans for the housing development.
Another 708 settlement homes are under construction in the same disputed neighbourhood.
When the Construction Ministry announced the approval of the Gilo tenders, Aviv Tatarsky, a researcher at Ir Amim, contended that the construction was intended to block the contiguity of a Palestinian state.
"The units are part of over 4,500 units approved since 2012, and if realized, tenders like this would cut off Bethlehem from east Jerusalem," he was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. "It's not just building beyond the Green Line, this kind of construction dramatically changes the facts on the ground."