University in South Africa cancels Israeli officials lecture

A South African university canceled a lecture by Israel’s deputy ambassador to the country following a pro-Palestinian campaign of “intimidation and threats.”

The University of KwaZulu-Natal said in a statement that it regretted the decision to cancel the May 21 lecture by Yaakov Finkelstein, but it had done so “in view of the sensitivities of the visit and in the best interest of all parties concerned,” the Independent Online reported.

In an email to staff informing them of the development, the university’s deputy vice chancellor, Joseph Ayee, referred to “the negative publicity” the visit would generate for the university.

Israeli Embassy spokeswoman Hila Stern said the lecture was canceled in cooperation with the university. A pro-Palestinian campaign of “intimidation and threats” had resulted in a situation where there was “a genuine threat to the diplomat’s well-being,” she said.

The University of Johannesburg last year became the first South African university to impose an academic boycott on Israel, despite a longstanding academic relationship with Ben-Gurion University. — jta