To pretend that this discussion is about occupation or a lasting peace in the Middle East is a fallacy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A senior Rhodes University lecturer who is an active Christian Zionist submitted this “most interesting letter written by Mark Woodland, a politics student on the recent Israeli Apartheid Week held at Rhodes University.” Woodland had given the letter to Pino Suliman, one of three Israeli students who supported the SA Union of Jewish Students during IAW at Rhodes – which was, reportedly, a flop.
Rhodes' culture absent throughout IAW
Despite there being only five student supporters of Israel attending the week’s events, we believe their presence made a huge impact on the Rhodes community. Only time will reveal what a strong influence they had on those who took the trouble to attend.
Rhodes University prides itself on its multi-culturalism and intellectual honesty, both of which have been noticeably absent throughout Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) events, which were held at Rhodes last week.
The designation “Israeli Apartheid Week” implies that Israel is an apartheid state. This is not the case. Palestinian citizens living in Israel, despite the numerous challenges they face, are present in every aspect of Israeli life. They are given the same rights and privileges as Jewish Israelis.
This is afforded to them by the constitution of Israel. This is a far cry from our experience of apartheid in South Africa. If anything, the ideas espoused during Israel Apartheid Week degrade our own hard fought struggle for a just and democratic South Africa.
Lack of discourse worrying
The Israeli Apartheid Week events which I attended this week were alarming because of the very one-sided debate which was presented. The lack of any scholarly discourse on the subject was worryingly absent from the organising staff. Throughout IAW one not only encountered an extremely pro-Palestinian narrative, but rather one of hatred.
Hatred toward Israel and specifically toward Jews.
One faculty member in particular went out of her way to silence any form of real discussion as the Israeli perspective was not even considered to be relevant, the case being: Israel is guilty before being charged, the time for debate is over, and you’re either with us or against us. The discussions were reminiscent of show trials carried out by a Stalinist regime rather than that of affording participants any real opportunity to ascertain any truth on the matter.
It is a sad day indeed when a few students with opposing opinions are silenced by the very people who should be encouraging open debate.
We naturally cannot ignore the very real plight of the Palestinian people, but by discouraging debate and taking an aggressive stance towards the issue, this only hampers the process of achieving a peaceful solution. One element of this type of debate is the two court systems that are utilized when judging the merits of Israelis and Palestinians within the occupied territories. Greater effort needs to be made to integrate it into single body which can fully represent the rights of the Palestinian people.
Lecturer: Murder of Israelis “morally justified”
One of the guest speakers, Miko Peled, predicted that one day those who sided with the state of Israel would be outcasts, lepers of the international community. He then continued to portray late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat as the only guiding light for peace in the conflict for nearly thirty years. Notably, a man partially responsible for the Munich Massacre during the 1972 Summer Olympics. (A Palestinian terrorist attack in which eleven Israeli athletes were brutally murdered).
Another lecturer told a group of students that the murder of innocent Israeli civilians is morally justified in the struggle for Palestinian independence. In my presence, a lecturer told a Jewish student that it is impossible to be both Jewish and democratic.
An Israeli student, who had travelled all the way from Tel Aviv to attend Israeli Apartheid Week, watched the documentary “Roadmap to Apartheid” and he expressed shame, not because any of it was true, but because of how the content was being perceived by the public. He felt that, as an Israeli and specifically a Jew, he and fellow Jews are seen as outsiders, unworthy of respect.
To pretend that this discussion is about occupation or a lasting peace in the Middle East is a fallacy. There is a reason for this anti-Israel polemic: to detract from the widespread Human Rights abuses carried out and perpetrated by countries such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Palestine which are exponentially worse than those carried out by the state of Israel. There is only one country in the entire Middle East that has any type of real religious diversity within it and which is also protected by a secular democracy and that is Israel. If one is to consider that Israel is on a lower moral plane than the rest of those sovereign nations, it can only be a direct manifestation of anti-Semitism.
There has always been an age old and historic hatred for the Jewish people. Israeli Apartheid Week is a major offshoot of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign and this is sadly relevant in South Africa. If South African institutions name and shame Israel for the crime of Apartheid, what more ammunition is needed to discredit the Israeli people’s right to self-determination?
Bad history from 2011 and 2012 events
The recent departure of the former Rhodes house warden, Larissa Klazinga, who was a member of the Jewish community, is a stark reminder that persecution can take many forms within academia.
She was indicted on the charge of failure to ensure that her position at the University should be one of neutrality as far as political issues were concerned. A sad irony in relation to what has transpired over the course of this past week.
PICTURED LEFT: LARISSA KLAZINGER
Rhodes is following an agenda which is not in the best interests of its students or the intellectual responsibility it enjoys as a world class university. If debate is not encouraged, and only one view is espoused,en that view eventually becomes acknowledged as a universal truth – therein lies the danger.