Nelson Mandela South Africa billboard .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Last week, the Student Representative Council of the Durban University of Technology issued a statement calling for the immediate deregistration of all Jews and Zionists from its institution. This anti-Semitic statement, unusual in a nation such as South Africa which prides itself on diversity, tolerance and freedom of association, sparked a massive outcry from the Jewish community.
Certainly, as the South African Union of Jewish Students affirmed in a statement released directly following the DUT declaration, “To discriminate against a person because of their religious beliefs or political standpoint will not be tolerated by a nation that has fought so hard to uphold these ideals.”
Undeniably, the viewpoint taken by the Student Representative Council, or SRC, stands in stark contradictions to the rights solidified in the South African constitution, and to the spirit of a state that has dedicated itself to the rectification and eradication of former biases.Keep up to date on the latest opinion pieces on our new Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
Standing firmly against such blatant anti-Semitic and unconstitutional sentiment, the South African Union of Jewish Students, SAUJS , launched a worldwide social media campaign against the council at the university. The campaign is titled “#DUT-SRC-Disgrace” and features people holding posters with statements proudly supporting the rights of Jews and all South Africans alike.
Such signs including phrases like “We will not tolerate anti-Semitism,” “South Africans are proud to be Zionist” and “Everybody has the right to freedom of speech.
The campaign was received with phenomenal local and global support. . Locally, where the harshness of what had happened was most prominently felt, SAUJS was immediately joined by Christian Zionist groups including DEISI and Jewish youth movements such as Bnei Akiva, Netser, Habonim and Betar. Most touchingly, SAUJS was flooded by the support of student unions from around the world, including from France, Australia, Britain, Austria, Ukraine and the World Union of Jewish students, to mention a few.
The campaign was such an overwhelming success that within days of the conception of the idea, SAUJS had tons of pictures, posters and statements of solidarity that covered Facebook and Instagram.
It spread the message that the world would not stand for the sort of biases the Durban University of Technology SRC was attempting to promote.
The campaign emphasized to South African Jewish students their strong place in the global Jewish community: that no matter what challenges the South African Jewish community may face, it would not be facing them alone. As a SAUJS member stated, “It is really heart-warming to know that so many people care; and I’d do the same for them.”
SAUJS maintains that the SRC’s statement is “unconstitutional and simply not South African.” South African law does not tolerate any sort of discrimination on the basis of religion or political affiliation.
SAUJS has always and continues to “stand firm in support of human rights, and sharply opposes their violation.”
SAUJS calls on all supporters of equality, political and human rights to join the campaign. More information about the campaign can be found on the “Saujs Countrywide” Facebook page.
The writer is national chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students.