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to Apartheid in South Africa
|Instruments and legislation|
|UN Security Council Resolutions|
The academic boycott of South Africa consisted of series of boycotts of South African academic institutions and scholars initiated in the 1960s, at the request of the African National Congress, with the goal of using such international pressure to force the end South Africa's system of apartheid. The boycotts were part of a larger international campaign of "isolation" that eventually included political, economic, cultural and sports boycotts. The academic boycotts ended in 1990 when its stated goal of ending apartheid was achieved.
During apartheid era, the boycotts were debated within anti-apartheid circles as to whether they were ethically justified and appropriate. Other critics of the boycott were various conservative groups worldwide who "disliked such anti-apartheid initiatives", and campus libertarians who "perceived a loss of academic freedom".
Subsequent research in the post-apartheid area has claimed that the boycotts were more a "symbolic gesture of support" for anti-apartheid efforts rather than a direct influencer of the situation. Additionally, the academic boycott was perceived by the targets of the boycott, South Africa scholars, as unjust and discriminatory.
In 1965, 496 university professors and lecturers from 34 British universities signed the following declaration in protest against apartheid and violations of academic freedom. They made special reference to the issuance of banning orders against Jack Simons and Eddie Roux, two well-known progressive academics.
We, the (undersigned) professors and lecturers in British universities in consultation with the Anti-Apartheid Movement:
In 1980, the United Nations passed a resolution urging "all academic and cultural institutions to terminate all links with South Africa".
|Apartheid in South Africa
|Events and Projects|
P. W. Botha â· D. F. Malan
"The ethical and other issues surrounding the academic boycott deeply divided the academic community, both within and outside South Africa." 
|Please help improve this article by expanding it. Further information might be found on the talk page. (June 2007)|
"Boycott proponents argued that academics should not be treated as an elite detached from the political and social environment in which it functions, especially since some of the South African universities seemed to be tools of the Nationalist government." 
Desmond Tutu, a prominent leader within the anti-apartheid, described his clear support for the academic boycott of South Africa. He wrote that it needed to be maintained for institutions which had a bad record in opposing apartheid, but could be lifted for others as the political situation eased. The boycott had "certainly made a number of people sit up and take notice, especially the so-called liberal universities." 
"Opposition to this boycott persisted throughout the 80s: conservatives around the world disliked such anti-apartheid initiatives; campus libertarians perceived a loss of academic freedom; and some liberal South Africans argued that their universities, as centres of resistance to apartheid, made precisely the wrong targets."
Opponents from within anti-Apartheid circles "argued that ideas and knowledge should be treated differently than tangible commodities, that obstacles to information access could actually hurt the victims of apartheid (for example, retard medical research and, ultimately, reduce the quality of health care), and that an academic boycott (in contrast to economic, trade, or political boycott) would not even be noticed by the South African government. Change is much more likely to occur by providing information than by withholding it." 
"Such a boycott would cut a university off from its life blood, the nurturing flow of ideas.... The campaign plays directly into the hands of the destructive right-wing in this country which would also dearly love to cut us off from the world and its influences." 
Solomon Benatar, a critic, wrote that "Academic boycott has been justified as an appropriate political strategy in the struggle against the oppression of apartheid. Moral outrage against racist policies has led to the claim that academic boycott is a morally imperative component of a broader sanctions policy. This claim has neither been substantiated by a reasoned ethical argument nor weighted against an ethically justifiable approach that is consistent with universal humanitarian aspirations and which allows rejection of apartheid to be coupled to constructive endeavours." 
Solomon Benator, a professor at University of Cape Town, and others advocated an alternative proposal: a "selective boycott"/"selective support" effort which would boycott South African organizations only if they were practitioners of apartheid and would extend support to organizations that did not practice apartheid. This alternative proposal was criticized because of both "the practical problems of implementation" and that "it implicitly endorsed the idea that political views are valid determinants of who should attend scholarly meetings, whose work should be published, and so on."
"That most of the scholars in our study judged the boycott to be an irritant or inconvenience, rather than a significant barrier to scholarly progress, suggests that it proved more a symbolic gesture than an effective agent of change." 
"The academic boycott was more of an irritation than a true obstacle to scholarly progress." 
"In most cases, scholars and libraries were able to circumvent the boycott one way or another-for example, by using "third parties" in less antagonistic countries although with delays and at greater expense." 
"Many [South African] scholars felt left out, isolated, unjustly discriminated against." 
"Suspicions were created" ... "that a submission was really rejected for political reasons, not the reasons claimed", "that the high incidence of inactive research materials, such as biological agents and antibodies, received by South African institutions was not a mere coincidence" 
The academic boycott of South Africa is frequently invoked as a model for more recent efforts to organize academic boycotts of Israel.
Some invoke the comparison to claim that an academic boycott of Israel should not be controversial based a misconception that the academic boycott of South Africa was uncontroversial and straightforward. The reality, at the time, was very different. The effort was the subject of significant criticism and contentious debate from diverse segments. Andrew Beckett writes, in the Guardian, on this frequent mistaken comparison:
Other, such as Hillary and Stephen Rose in Nature, make the comparison and argue for an academic boycott of Israel based on a belief that the academic boycott of South Africa was effective in ending apartheid. George Fink responds to this claim in a letter to Nature:
The African National Congress, which was the leading anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, has published extensive documentation to support their assertion that the boycott campaign was, indeed, instrumental in ending apartheid.
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