A sketched picture of Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh stuck to a tree at Wits University in Johannesburg during this weeks Israel-Apartheid Week.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jewish students at Wits University in Johannesburg have reacted with shock and disdain after posters and flyers depicting world-renown Holocaust victim Anne Frank dressed in a Palestinian scarf circulated around the campus, as part of an Israel-Apartheid Week campaign taking place this week.
According to one of the flyers, the picture was designed as part of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s #Flyers50Campaign.
An explanation written on the pamphlet said: “This is a flyer that depicts Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh. It draws attention to the fact that the same racism, hardship and oppression that was faced by Jews during the Nazi times is repeated in modern times,” alleging that Israel’s “occupation” is as bad as the Holocaust.
The flyers were stuck on the walls of well-known public areas at the campus.
The shock went beyond Wits, with students and members of the Jewish community reacting on social media. One student said that such action is “an insult to Anne Frank’s memory”; another called the Palestinian Solidarity Committee “barbarians.” Others accused the group of “distorting history to fit their own political agenda,” adding that “using Anne Frank, a Jewish Holocaust victim, to promote a blatantly antisemitic agenda is as low as it gets.”
The South African Union of Jewish Students issued a statement saying that it had noted “with disgust that the Wits PSC [Palestinian Solidarity Committee] are circulating flyers depicting Anne Frank in a Palestinian scarf. Their aim in doing so is clearly both to draw attention to their ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ (IAW) propaganda campaign against Israel while at the same time causing maximum offense to Wits Jewish students.”
Rachel Raff, the union’s national chairwoman, and Wits chairman Yanir Grindler said that “Anne Frank has become an iconic symbol for the Jewish people and indeed the world.”
“She is someone whose personal tragedy is also representative of the greater tragedy of the more than one and a half million children who were murdered during the Holocaust for no other reason than that they were Jewish,” the leaders wrote. “No possible comparison can be drawn between these atrocities and what is happening in the Middle East – and the PSC are well aware of this.”
Raff and Grindler further said that “manipulating her memory as a cheap publicity stunt for a flailing PSC IAW campaign is unacceptable. It is a gross form of cultural appropriation towards a figure that is symbolic of the plight of the Jewish people.”
They made it clear that throughout this week, the core thrust of the student union’s campaign to combat Israel-Apartheid Week has been to promote engagement, dialogue and education on Israel and its quest for peace with its neighbors, including the Palestinians.
“As in years gone by, the PSC has yet again chosen the path of insults, gross misrepresentations and ugly invective,” they wrote. “This is not surprising, since their aim is not to look for solutions and promote greater understanding of what is happening in the Middle East, but simply to demonize Israel to the greatest extent possible.”
Last year, the BDS and PSC supporters goose-stepped and performed mock Nazi salutes in front of South African Union of Jewish Students members. “This year, the PSC has once again resorted to making spiteful allusions to the Holocaust, knowing full well how insulting it is to Jewish people. Resorting to such crude shock tactics is also a way of publicizing what has thus far been a decidedly lack-luster IAW campaign on their part,” the statement said.