Israel-Apartheid Week kicks off across S. African campuses

Vandalism, antisemitic graffiti and bloodied Israeli flag used to intimidate Jewish students.

By
March 15, 2018 08:00
3 minute read.
A bloodied Israeli flag hangs on the main building at the University of Cape Town on Monday.

A bloodied Israeli flag hangs on the main building at the University of Cape Town on Monday at the start of Israel-Apartheid Week.. (photo credit: SAUJS/FACEBOOK)

 
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A massive Israeli flag covered in red stood on the steps of the main university building with the words “Apartheid State, blood is on your hands” written on it.

This is just one of several intimidation tactics Jewish students at several university campuses in South Africa have had to deal with, as Israel-Apartheid Week kicked off across the country on Monday.

The flag has since been taken down from the building at the University of Cape Town, but the effect remained. However, Jewish students at the campus refused to back down from their Israel Awareness campaign, which has so far been a success.

Meanwhile, antisemitic and anti-Israel graffiti, inspired by BDS and its followers, littered the Wits University campus in Johannesburg, with slogans such as “F*** Zionism,” “F*** Israel,” “Israel is anti-Black” and “Zionism is Racism” spray-painted in several main areas of the campus.

To counter Israel-Apartheid Week, the South African Union of Jewish Students launched a Dialogue Not Division campaign in an effort to encourage discussion as opposed to hate and intimidation. SAUJS hosted several speakers during its campaign, including Miss Israel 2013, Titi Aynaw, who is an Ethiopian Jew, and StandWithUs’s Yahya Mahamid, an Israeli Arab.

Where the student union had placed some of its posters around Wits, BDS supporters had torn them down and spray-painted anti-Israel slurs on the walls where the posters had been.

Several small wars of words broke out between the two sides over the last few days, but there has been no physical violence – as was the case last year.

There is also a large presence of university security on the campus, and the SAUJS contingent requested that the two sides and their displays be separated by 100 meters.

A contingent of BDS supporters and Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee members also covered their faces with keffiyehs, wore black and held signs written in red – the color of blood – calling on students to come and see the “truth.”

In response to the graffiti, SAUJS said that it had “reported all the instances of defacement on the main campus and have been in close contact with the university’s executive in dealing with this issue.

“We are happy to report that most of the graffiti has been removed by the university, and by tomorrow, everything should be cleaned up,” it said. “The university does not condone vandalism nor prejudicial statements against any student, staff or external stakeholder. They have thus informed us that investigations into this malicious case have begun. As soon as they are informed of the culprits, they will then refer the matter to the legal office, to institute disciplinary actions against those that are found guilty of acting outside the rules of discipline.”


Last week at the University of Cape Town, during a separate campaign hosted by SAUJS to create awareness and tolerance of minority groups, an installation that made up the hashtag “#RESPECT” in large plastic letters and posters describing different forms of discrimination was defaced by pro-BDS students.

They changed the plastic words to spell #SPECTRE and the letters and posters were vandalized with anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian slogans – despite the campaign having nothing to do with Israel-Apartheid Week.

According to SAUJS in the Western Cape, the main posters vandalized were those that explained antisemitism.

“Vandalism of this kind does not only amount to discrimination on the grounds of religion, but also impinges on the right to freedom of expression,” it said.

SAUJS called on the University of Cape Town’s administration to respond appropriately.

In a statement released earlier this week, the SA Jewish Board of Deputies made it clear that “any antisemitic behavior on the part of IAW supporters, as well as attempts to unlawfully prevent SAUJS from running its campaign, will be raised with the necessary authorities.”

The country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, threw its support behind Israel-Apartheid Week and said it was “actively participating... as part of our ongoing commitment to the heroic people of Palestine.”

The ANC said that the continued imprisonment of 17-year-old Ahed Tamimi “is an example of the extreme and unacceptable abuse of child rights, human rights and international law by the Israeli government.

“Israel-Apartheid Week is perhaps one of the best examples of South Africa’s unity in diversity and the vibrancy of our civil society,” it added.

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