“Israel Apartheid Week”, an annual anti-Israel hate fest masquerading as human rights activism, got underway this week. The Board, as on previous occasions, combined with the SAZF, SAUJS and other organisations in opposing it. This included our responding vigorously to ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte’s press statement enthusiastically endorsing IAW.
The main battlegrounds, as always, have been the university campuses. For Wits, the showdown commenced a week early following a brazen piece of fraud by the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee. The PSC booked the library lawns on the false pretext of representing the orienteering society and proceeded to mount their own illicit exhibitions there. When the deception was discovered, they were asked to remove their displays, but refused to do so. The university has indicated that disciplinary action will be taken against those responsible, which will be closely monitored by the Board .
SAUJS responded by mounting an effective silent counter-protest, and also went ahead with its weekly learning session on the lawns. Despite the latter being a Jewish study gathering, with nothing to do with Middle East politics, IAW supporters proceeded to interrupt proceedings and to taunt and insult participants. Thus, and not for the first time, the true nature of IAW was glaringly revealed. It is not about promoting peace, human rights or even the welfare of the Palestinians themselves; rather, it seeks to demonize Israel as the state of the Jewish people, and in doing so seeks to create hostility against the local Jewish community. It is for this reason that it singles out businesses known to be owned, run or at least founded by Jews for its attempted boycott campaigns, even though there are many other companies that maintain links with Israel. SAUJS themselves have taken up the incident with the university authorities, and will follow up as required to ensure that the culprits are appropriately dealt with.
We are extremely proud of our students for standing their ground in the face of such abuse and lawlessness, and for doing so, moreover, in so restrained and dignified a way. As we know, our campuses are currently hot-beds of tension, and matters could easily have spiraled out of control had our students taken the proverbial bait. Throughout this time, the Board has been in constant consultation with the SAUJS leadership, providing logistical assistance and advice whenever required.
As part of our “Israel Awareness Week” counter-campaign, we have brought to South Africa the distinguished Palestinian academic, theologian and peace activist Professor Mohammed Dajani. The Board has been centrally involved in arranging his itinerary, including setting up media interviews and speaking engagements. Formerly a professor of political science at al Quds University, Prof Dajani is the founder of the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam. For him, the solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict lies in both sides listening to and understanding one another’s aspirations, fears and historical narratives. Such voices urging moderation and empathy are desperately needed in our troubled world today.