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Cape Town - UCT’s Palestine Solidarity Forum has lashed out at the university’s Student Representative Council after four leaders, including the council’s former president, accepted a “fully funded trip to Israel”.

They claimed they were told by the SRC members that they had not accepted the invitation in their capacity as SRC members.

“One cannot ignore (the fact) that they are office bearers and indeed represent both the SRC and the broader UCT student body,” said the forum in a press release.

“It would be willfully naive to assume that the invitation to visit Israel was not related to their position as student leaders and furthermore that the funders’ actions were not prompted by the pro-Palestine stance of last year’s SRC.”

But on Wednesday SRC president Ramabina Mahapa told the Cape Argus he was not in a position to comment on the trip as the SRC was set to hold a meeting at 6pm to discuss the Palestine Solidarity Forum’s press release.

The forum wrote that it was unclear at this stage if the trip was a “religious pilgrimage or a leadership conference”.

“There have been claims of both from the student leaders. We understand that for many people religious beliefs inform their worldview. However, religious beliefs can never justify the brutal oppression and dispossession of Palestinians at the hands of what is essentially a colonial regime.

“The SRC of 2015 is bound by a memorandum supporting boycotts, divestments and sanctions, which was democratically adopted by the SRC of 2014.

“It is unacceptable that members of the SRC can so blatantly disregard the decisions made by the very SRC of which they are a part.”

UCT spokeswoman Riana Geldenhuys said the students had been invited to Israel in their personal capacity.

The university was not involved in the invitation or the trip.

She directed further questions to the SRC.

“The University of Cape Town respects and staunchly protects the SRC’s right to independence, as a body elected by the student community to represent their interests. Where they request guidance UCT gives it, but we respect their independence.”

Included in the statement by the Forum were accusations that an SRC member had been sharing “Islamophobic” comments on Facebook.

UCT said if any student was found to have made disrespectful remarks it would investigate and take appropriate action.

The SRC was set to respond to queries on Thursday.

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Cape Argus