IAW Campus Circus
By Tshepo Ndlovu
This year we have witnessed unprecedented levels of hostility, antisemitism and unprovoked aggression coming from the Palestinian lobby on Wits University campus, obviously led by the BDS cohort persecuting Jewish students and supporters of the state of Israel. The continued onslaught on the Jewish State has nothing to do with human rights, dignity and self-determination of the Palestinian people. Rather, the BDS sponsored Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) campaign in South Africa is largely driven by youngsters consumed by hate, some of whom seek political mileage for themselves, and who flirt unashamedly with Jihadist ideals. This we witnessed all too clearly at Wits University’s Great Hall stairs, where IAW supporters were seen vigorously chanting while with unabashed glee brandishing a Hezbollah flag.
Others went as far as to emulate Nazi regime theatrics – a grandest display of abhorrence towards Jews, which can be simply translated as the desire for the repeat of the Holocaust on Israel. The IAW campaigners have absolutely no intention to seek peace with the Israelis; their sole mandate is to see Israel isolated and ultimately annihilated. Their claim that Israel has a colonial disposition, displaced and dispossessed Palestinians is both ahistorical and devoid of truth. And by the way, the mention of “Palestinians” in their diatribe in reference to pre-1948 context, it loosely denotes Arab/Muslim inhabitants. There is absolutely no mention of Jews and other ethnic groups and faiths which were a dominant feature prior 1948 and continue to be a part of the vibrant Israeli society today.
SAUJS and other sympathetic formations organized an informative, yet fun weekly program. Students managed to interact with the visiting Chloe Valdary from Jerusalem U, after her solidarity remarks. It was a surreal experience for many students, particularly those of colour, to see an African American supporting and advocating for the State of Israel. They’ve become accustomed to slogans that have effectively cornered black South Africans to sheepishly support the Palestinian cause. So, they were very much appreciative of the opportunity to engage with her on the topic and also expressed their willingness to formalize discussion forums on campus to address this divisive issue. Students are interested in speaking in one voice, forge unity amongst interested parties and help those charged with political power on either side of the conflict to find each other resolve the decades long conflict.
Campus was electrified and colourful when Craig Dershowitz and his team from Artists 4 Israel took over the University piazza by storm. The famous group has traversed many cities promoting the same message through their talent. Artists 4 Israel is an effective, an unorthodox advocacy tool, receptive to millennials. The graffiti artists made a compelling case to students that through the arts, conflicted nations can be able to start conversations and find peace. They didn’t just end there. Students had the opportunity to design and watch the artists spray paint their t-shirt designs. It was a fun interactive session that both students and artists enjoyed.
The University’s management has to date released no communication condemning these acts of intimation and hatred and assuring the Wits community that those found to have violated the University’s rules – particularly those who found a deep sense of pleasure in masquerading as Nazis - will be appropriately punished.
SAUJS Pretoria also had an amazing week as well, so much so, that BDS lobbyists failed to pitch up at Pretoria campuses on the Friday. Tuks (Pretoria university), Medic campus and TUT (Tshwane Univ of Technology) were all well represented by students as well as artists4israel. They decided to promote peace through sharing their wall with MSA (Muslim Student Association). Numerous debates took place which were all positive and engaging, which was exciting for the students to debate in a peaceful manner.
In the words of SAUJS Chairman, Eden Goldenberg, “ our pride as Jews on campus rose to new heights. For the first time, we had a presence in a positive way”.
We earnestly hope there will be a day when BDS, instead of inciting hate and violence, and rather than continuing to falsely depict Israel as an occupying force solely responsible for the conflict and a deterrent to the establishment of a Palestinian state, will sponsor programs that will organise and promote respectful, constructive dialogue. If they truly believe in advocating for human rights, their immediate concern, one would think, would surely be to find a lasting solution through debate and negotiations, not by demonizing Israel and campaigning for its destruction.