Anti-racism protesters deface South African campus with swastikas, pictures of Hitler.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Students at the University of Cape Town were appalled to find posters swastikas and images of Adolf Hitler plastered around their campus last week, as part of a campaign to remove a statue of British businessman and colonialist Cecil John Rhodes.
The posters, which the local branch of the South African Union of Jewish Students said “appeared without any explanation or contextualization” on Wednesday, were quickly torn down by students.
The Jewish group blamed an anti-apartheid campus movement called Black Monday for the signs.
Black Monday has been involved in protests against the presence of a statue of Rhodes on campus and in a meeting between SAUJS and those responsible for the posters, the activists explained that they wanted to show that Rhodes was “just as bad as Hitler.”
“They explained that it was impossible for white students to understand ‘the struggle of the black child,’ and the outrage that black students feel upon seeing the statue daily,” SAUJS said in a statement.
“Thus, the swastikas were supposed to serve the purpose of putting their struggle against the statue into a form that ‘Jews could understand.’ The students were unapologetic for the use of the images, and said they had similar poster campaigns planned for the remainder of this week.”
While the Jewish students agreed that Rhodes was “responsible for crimes against humanity, and the systematic oppression of black people,” they said that he could not, in any way, shape or form, be considered as equal to the infamous Nazi leader.
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“Rhodes never attempted the complete extermination of a group of people. While clearly guilty of the grave exploitation and disregard for the lives of blacks, Rhodes never attempted genocide against them,” the group said.
“When a swastika appears in a public place (especially without any context, as occurred today) this is often construed as an imminent threat of violence against Jews. Recent anti-Semitic attacks in Europe and the United States have used the symbol as a tool of intimidation. Jewish students, being aware of this, inevitably feel unsafe upon seeing the symbol.
No attempt has been made by the protesters to understand this fear, or to understand the visceral emotional reaction experienced by Jews upon seeing symbols of Nazism. Instead, they seem intent on using these emotions as an example with which to prove a political point.”
In an email to The Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Levi, the local SAUJS chairman, said that he hopes that “harsh action will be taken and we also hope that there will be charges laid against the perpetrators.”
The South African Jewish Board of Deputies likewise condemned the swastikas, saying that “South Africans in particular should be very sensitive to the power of racist symbolism and language, used by the apartheid regime over decades to oppress millions of South Africans.
To utilize the symbols of the Nazi regime is deeply offensive to the millions of people, gypsies, homosexuals, Jews, blacks and others who were systematically and brutally murdered under the banner of those symbols.”
The SAJBD also sent a letter of protest this week to Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Parks Tau, taking umbrage at his decision to work with the BDS-South Africa movement, which the Jewish group accused of “creating a climate of hate against Johannesburg and South African Jewry.”
Former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, who was in South Africa for Israel Apartheid Week, said that invoking apartheid to validate efforts against Israel “shames the real struggle against real apartheid.”
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