Anti-Semitic friction and incidents at Apartheid Week
Johannesburg - The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has described it as “both predictable and inevitable” that this year’s Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) would result in incidents of anti-Semitism.
The Piazza at the Wits University Campus was divided into two separate areas to allow space for both pro-Israel under the banner of SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement under the banner of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) to present their views.
“Throughout the week, however, supporters of Israel were subjected to anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric, including a PSC member saying that he wanted to kill Jews because they don’t behave when they are in other people’s countries, another member impersonating a Nazi imitating Hitler, goose-stepping, and making Nazi-style salutes as well as another PSC member saying that Israelis should be killed.”
The organisation’s Wendy Kahn said these wasere “typical BDS tactics of sabotage, intimidation and attempts at silencing any alternate views throughout the week”.
The PSC cut the sound system while Yahya Mahamed, an Arab-Israeli student, was talking. PSC members also allegedly attempted to shout him down and made threatening movements towards him, leading to police stepping in to restrain the PSC members involved.
PSC members also apparently tore down SAUJS posters and violently threatened pro-Israel supporters, resulting in campus security having to form a physical barrier between the groups.
“The SAJBD notes that the supporters of IAW and the BDS movement have gone to great lengths to depict their campaigns as having nothing to do with anti-Semitism but as being entirely aimed at criticising Israel. Indeed, they have labelled accusations that BDS activity results in anti-Semitism as being a “Zionist ploy” to stifle criticism of Israel.
“While they absolve themselves from any anti-Semitic incidents that occur, it is the aggressive, inflammatory and intolerant nature of their campaigns that fosters the environment in which anti-Semitism flourishes. The evidence speaks for itself. "
The SAJBD commended SAUJS and all the supporters of Israel, who, in spite of the hostile environment in which they continued to operate, conducted themselves with dignity and restraint.
In a joint statement yesterday, a number of organisations - In Struggle and In Solidarity, Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee, Amnesty International Wits and Wits Muslim Students' Association - said they were aware of incidents in which those masquerading as progressive allies of the Palestinian cause engaged in odious anti-Semitism.
“We unequivocally and unconditionally condemn this anti-Semitism, and reiterate that it is not in line with the values and principles of our respective organisations, or the project of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
The statement said that the student had been identified and, after consultation with their membership databases, it was established that he is not, nor has ever been, a member of the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee or Amnesty International Wits.
“We shall never forget the historical persecution faced by the Jewish people, nor shall we ever deny or attempt to justify the horror of the Holocaust.
“We restate that our fight is not with the Jewish people, but with the ethnic ultra-nationalism and settler colonialism of the Israeli state, along with the apartheid policies which it implements through military force.
“We are cognisant of the need to interrogate all forms of bigotry and social injustice - including misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and, indeed, anti-Semitism - within our own activist spaces.
“A refusal to do so is a spineless betrayal of the project of solidarity, justice and equality that we seek to advance,” the statement said.