Durban - As anger mounts over their demand that Jewish students supporting the State of Israel be expelled, Durban University of Technology student leaders on Thursday backed down and apologised.
The student representative council (SRC) and the Progressive Youth Alliance made the call earlier this week, but on Thursday apologised “without reservation”.
They said they were against all forms of racism, including Zionism and anti-Semitism, but claimed Israel was an “apartheid state” that should be isolated - and “on this point we will not concede”.
Various organisations, as well as DUT’s vice-chancellor and principal, Professor Ahmed Bawa, reacted with outrage to their call. Bawa called it “totally preposterous, unjust, unfair, unreasonable and unconstitutional” and made it clear he would not agree to their demand.
The vice-president of the Council of KwaZulu-Natal Jewry, Alana Baranov, said they were “appalled” by the call, calling it anti-Semitic and discriminatory.
“It is especially saddening that such a call could be made by youth organisations in our country which has overcome a dark history of racial segregation and oppression and sacrificed much to achieve freedom, equality and human rights for all,” Baranov said.
One angry woman, Judith Msomi, who wrote to the Daily News, said that the SRC had behaved “worse than Hitler”.
She wondered who had “indoctrinated” the SRC to spread such hate as to call for Jewish students to be deregistered.
Msomi recalled that the secretary of the SRC, Mqondisi Duma, had said the student council had made the demand after analysing international politics.
Msomi then asked: “How can you spend time analysing politics of other nations when you do not have the slightest clue of the politics in your own nation?
“Any intelligent university student knows that he has an obligation to understand the constitution of his/her country… You have stripped all the Jewish students of their human and constitutional rights… you have betrayed your institution… what you have done can have very bad international consequences,” she said.
Also reacting, Salim Vally of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “Any student who is Jewish, Christian, Muslim and atheist who support the State of Israel should be engaged and educated and not deregistered.”
He said the education of students would make them realise that Israel was an apartheid state.
One angry DUT student even came to the Daily News’s offices to complain about the SRC’s call. The demand did not reflect the views of all students, he said, adding it took the focus away from their cause.
“The real issue is funding as students cannot register to study this year.”