Johannesburg University in South Africa announced Wednesday it was cutting ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University, in Beersheba, because it had not been able to find a Palestinian university to cooperate with.
UJ had stated as a condition for ties to continue that BGU find a Palestinian partner. The South African Times reported that a vote amongst the university's professors has determined that relations would cease as of April 1.
The two institutions have been collaborating since 1987, and in September UJ refused to participate in a boycott against BGU despite a call by other South African universities.
Professor Adam Habib, vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg told the Times he had sent a delegation to the Palestinian territories recently in an attempt to find an institute of higher learning to participate in a study on water purification, but to no avail.
"All the Palestinian universities said they would not be party to such an agreement because they felt academic freedom was not prioritized by Israeli universities," Habib said, adding that the Israeli university collaborates with the IDF.
But BGU is claiming that Habib "intentionally sabotaged" the search for a Palestinian partner, requiring the partner to be a university despite knowing that Palestinian universities officially boycott their Israeli counterparts.
Brenda Stern, spokeswoman for the Friends of Ben Gurion organization, said the university collaborates with a number of private Palestinian institutes, but that by including the label "university" in UJ's demands for partnership it was essentially dooming all attempts to find a partner.
Stern added that BGU was already number 250 in the world, so UJ's decision was not important, but that the Israeli institution felt compelled to help South Africans obtain pure water. Stern said BGU would continue to collaborate with other universities in the country.