SAUJS ends on a postive high at IAW: Dialogue Not Division

Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) took place at UCT and Wits between the 12 – 18 March, this year.  With an extensive amount of planning, SAUJS (with guidance from the SAZF and  SAJBD) showcased Israel as a diverse, vibrant democracy, and proudly reaffirmed the 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 shared their personal stories, 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; Yahya 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 Aynaw shared 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 SAUJS and Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), allowed the students space to reach out to the broader student body. The SAUJS tent was visited by hundreds of people, who were happy to engage. StandWithUs students from Israel, also provided 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.  The 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 will be investigating further.

In Cape Town, UCT also ran a successful campaign.  Each day focussed on a different theme that related to issues surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or issues the Jewish students on campus are faced with.  Each theme was presented as an artistic exhibition piece and was used to direct their conversational engagements on that day.  

Despite the Israeli flag being displayed at the PSF's (Palestine Solidarity Forum) station, defaced with the words “blood on your hands” and “Apartheid state” in red paint, it confirmed that the ceremonial flag, which was stolen from the Baxter Theatre at the 2017 Yom Ha’aztmaut celebrations last May, was indeed due to their theft, and now vandalism. (Charges have been laid with the police)

Overall, there was a very calm atmosphere that was experienced throughout the week. 

All the positive, and well planned objectives focusing on dialogue and engagement came to fruition, culminating in both sides coming together to discuss the difficult topics and looking for solutions.

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.