Dear Community Members,
Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) has come and gone. We are extremely proud of our students, who used the week to showcase Israel as a diverse, vibrant democracy and proudly reaffirmed our right to have a connection with the Jewish State. The message on Wits Campus was ‘Dialogue not Division’, and the guest speakers throughout the week told of their personal stories and experiences, highlighting the multiculturalism of Israel. Ishmael Khaldi told his story of being a Muslim Bedouin shepherd and becoming Israel’s first diplomat from that community; Issam Zeitout shared his experience as a Syrian refugee and the role Israel could play in finding a solution to the tragic civil war; Yachaya Mahamid spoke about growing up in an Arab Israeli village, rejecting the analogy of Apartheid in his country even while calling for greater tolerance for Arab Israelis. Titi Ayenew told how she was born into a poor Jewish family in Ethiopia, orphaned at the age of nine and going on to make Aliyah, eventually becoming Miss Israel in 2013.
The decision by Wits to separate the SAUJS and Palestinian Solidarity Committee students into separate areas allowed our students space to engage with the broader student body and indeed, they had hundreds of people visit their area and engage. In fact, there was a festive atmosphere in the SAUJS camp, with the visiting StandWithUs students from Israel providing an additional dimension of enthusiasm and knowledge.
While there was unpleasant graffiti and few attempts at intimidation, the week was less disruptive, anti-Semitic and hostile as in previous years. Their image of Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian scarf indicated a desperate attempt by the other side to garner attention. SAUJS were quick to condemn that behaviour, and Wits has assured us that they will investigate the graffiti.
In Cape Town, UCT also ran a successful campaign. Each day focussed on a different theme that either related to issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to issues faced by Jewish students on campus. Each theme was presented as an artistic exhibition piece and was used to direct our conversational engagements on that day. SAUJS students were placed on Jammie Plaza, which contributed to the calm atmosphere that was experienced throughout the week.
The SAJBD and the SAZF applaud our incredible students for developing creative, innovative and effective campaigns to counter the infamous IAW onslaught on our community’s deeply held loyalties and beliefs. Their commitment, resilience and talent bodes well for our community going forward, and they are assured of our constant support. We would also like to thank the community volunteers and staff who worked so hard to assist during this week.
Wendy Khan (National Director SAJBD) and Nicci Raz (Executive Director SAZF)