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Acting Rhodes VC accused of 'hatred of Jews'

  • Ordination - Julia and Mom FULL
“As an alumnus of Rhodes University … I take umbrage at the stance by the university to include me in this biased and one-sided view which sadly reflects ignorance of the tragic situation currently in both Gaza and Israel.” So wrote a frustrated Linda Gordon to Rhodes’ acting vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela, who she accused of making statements so “one-sided and inflammatory,” and “evidently fuelled by a baseless and unsubstantiated hatred of Jews.”
by ANT KATZ | Sep 03, 2014

Linda Gordon had read the words of Rhodes’ acting vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela which appeared in an article "World fails Gaza's children" in the East London Daily Dispatch last month. She responded with a letter to the editor in her capacity as an alumnus of Rhodes “and a proud South African Jewess”, stating that she was “appalled” that Mabizela had “issued such one-sided and inflammatory statements, evidently fuelled by a baseless and unsubstantiated hatred of Jews”.

Dr Mabizela had “expressed his utter disgust at the killing of Palestinian children at the hands of the Israeli Defence Forces”, wrote the Daily Dispatch in an article posted on the Rhodes website.

Ordination - HOMEMabizela had been speaking at a candlelight vigil held at the university in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. The acting VC said “the Palestinians were enduring one of the most atrocious attacks ever visited on a people.



RIGHT: Dr Mabizela, centre, leads a protest through the streets of Grahamstown

"We are here to express our utter disgust with the systematic extermination of the defenceless people of Gaza," he said. "How is it that innocent children can be deemed as legitimate targets by the Israeli Defence Force?"

Mabizela also condemned the Obama administration for what he termed its support of the killing of the Palestinian people. "We demand the immediate cessation of indiscriminate and brutal attacks on the defenceless people of Gaza.

"We condemn the senseless irrational and inhumane collective punishment of people of Gaza and we demand the immediate unconditional lifting of the blockade."

 


Readers please note: SAJR has persistently tried to reach Dr Mabizela for comment between Monday morning and Wednesday midday. “Please can you call so we can discuss this matter and balance the story with your input,” SAJR said when sending the draft story to the acting VC on Monday evening. He was given cell numbers but chose not to contact SAJR. 


Statements appalling

Linda Gordon, who lives in Durban, was appalled, rebutting Mabizela in the Dispatch: “While every life lost in Gaza is a tragedy,” she said, he failed to mention any of the following:

  • Hamas’ charter seeks the destruction of Israel and murder of the Jewish people in blatant anti-Semitic language;
  • The greatest systematic extermination of any people was the genocide of six million Jews in the Holocaust during the Second World War;
  • Hamas initiated the conflict with Israel years ago and has broken every ceasefire;
  • Israel has offered to withdraw from the Palestinian territories for secure and recognised borders and the end of conflict;
  • In fact, Israel withdrew from Gaza nine years ago, leaving behind much agricultural infrastructure and equipment which Hamas, after staging a coup d’etat to seize power from Fatah, used to build rockets and tunnels to attack Israelis; and
  • Between 1948 and 1967, when Gaza was controlled by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan, nothing was done to improve conditions in those areas or to create a state.

Ordination - Julia proudly displays her certificateDr Mabizela’s statements were so “one-sided and inflammatory,” saidGordon afterwards, “evidently fuelled by a baseless and unsubstantiated hatred of Jews”.



LEFT: Dr Mazibela - whose statements were very one-sided according to Linda Gordon. The acting VC chose not to comment on the story.



A media worker from East London, whose name is known to Jewish Report, even wrote to Gordon after the publication of her letter in the Dispatch: “It saddens me how one-sided this has all become. My heart bleeds for the people of Israel and how they are treated by the rest of the world. All I can say is G-d bless Israel and may they stand united and stay strong.”

 

No sympathy from Dr Mabizela

But the acting VC was far less sympathetic. Gordon wrote to him saying: “It was with grave concern that I recently read about the Rhodes University Open Letter, from which I quote as follows:

“…The attack on Gaza by the Israeli state violates the most basic human rights of the people in the area… and the escalating catastrophe is part of a persistent and systematic oppression of the Palestinian people.  As staff, students, honorary graduates and alumni… we feel a moral obligation to take a clear public position against the ongoing violence of the Israeli state…”

Gordon was commenting on an earlier story in the Daily Dispatch titled: Rhodes campus outraged at Israeli action which said: “A petition condemning the ongoing violence in Gaza has been signed by more than 300 members of the Rhodes University community. The list of 318 names includes acting vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela, honorary doctorate holder Zackie Achmat and Rhodes alumnus and journalist Niren Tolsi.”

An open letter accompanying the petition read: "The escalating catastrophe is not an isolated incident, but part of a persistent and systemic oppression of the Palestinian people."In light of this, we take the view that solidarity with the people in Gaza needs to move from expressions of moral outrage towards effective political action."

In the Rhodes-owned weekly, Grocott’s Mail, Professor Robert van Niekerk, director of the Rhodes Institute of Social and Economic Research, made similar inflammatory and one-sided statements in an article titled Rhodes academics call for Palestinian solidarity in which he called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from South Africa.

The signatories said they felt a moral obligation to take a "clear position against the ongoing violence", of course blaming Israel for it. "We would like to add our voices to the growing demand that the South African government severs all links with Israel, including trade and investment, and expels Israel's ambassador and recalls ours."

 

Not in my name…

Gordon contacted the university hoping to discuss this issue with the person responsible for this Open Letter and sweeping statements, but to no avail. And so it was that she wrote directly to the acting vice-chancellor.

“As an alumnus of Rhodes University… I take umbrage at the stance by the university to include me in this biased and one-sided view, which sadly reflects ignorance of the tragic situation currently in both Gaza and Israel,” Gordon wrote to Dr Mabizela.

“As you are aware, Hamas, a radical Islamic fundamentalist organisation which uses political and violent means, is committed to establishing an Islamic state in the whole of what it terms Palestine – post-1948 Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas’ Charter uncompromisingly seeks the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of the Jewish people in blatant anti-Semitic language.

“Yet in your address,” wrote Gordon, “you failed to make any mention of this… You made no reference to the Israeli situation at all.”

While every life lost in Gaza was a tragedy, she wrote, “your reference to ‘systematic extermination’ in this regard is gross hyperbole”.

She reminded Dr Mabizela that “Hamas initiated the conflict with Israel years ago and has continued to fire rockets into Southern Israel, even reaching Tel Aviv recently and causing the temporary closure of Ben-Gurion Airport.

“Israel has responded, as would any sovereign state, to protect its citizens and to safeguard the establishment of the State of Israel… Every ceasefire has been broken by Hamas.” 

Rhodes - Dr Sizwe Mabizela HOMEShe added that what she found “even more inexplicable, is the failure by you and by Reverend Andrew Hunter, the Grahamstown Anglican Church dean, to even mention the situation of the Christians in the Islamic State.



RIGHT: The Rhodes campus lies 
in the heart of Grahamstown


“Surely you should be condemning the action of the jihadists who took over large areas of northern Iraq and forced thousands of Christians to flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs?” asked Gordon.

Churches had been occupied, crosses removed and up to 1 500 manuscripts burnt, she reminded him. The UN estimates that up to 200 000 people had fled, she wrote, “but for you and the Dean this was a non-event”. What about the deaths of some 170 000 Syrians in the current civil war, she asked.

“As I question the reason for what you said and did not say, and for what is contained in the Rhodes University Open Letter, I can reach only one conclusion, viz, that it is fuelled by a basic hatred of Jews that is  both baseless and unsubstantiated.
"The venom we are now hearing both locally and overseas, some 69 years after the Holocaust, fills me with trepidation and seems to make a mockery of the cry by Jews world-wide: ‘Never Again'.” 

 Gordon ended her long and impassioned letter to Dr Mabizela with the words: “I shall appreciate receiving your reply.”

The reply indeed came, promptly. It was penned on the acting VC’s behalf by his personal assistant. It read simply: “Dr Mabizela acknowledges receipt of your e-mail and he has read it and respects your right to your opinion.”

Rhodes ‘toxic’ for Jewish staff and students

Ordination - ShulIn late 2013, Rhodes settled a long outstanding labour dispute with a senior Jewish staffer in the Dean of Students’ office who had been victimised for her Zionist views.



LEFT: Among the charges against Rhodes management in the Larissa Klazinga matter, were that some senior members of the university's management had allowed BDS to use fellow- staffers, students and even faculty-members to spy on her during Israel Apartheid Week in 2012 and 2013. The charges were never disputed by then-vice- chancellor Dr Badat.




The amount of the settlement Rhodes paid  Klazinga was not disclosed due to a confidentiality agreement – but according to her attorney, Michael Bagraim, the settlement had been substantial.

During and after the long-running matter, several Rhodes donors withdrew, the university paid considerable legal fees and several senior staffers involved in the matter are no longer with Rhodes.

The then-vice-chancellor has moved on, as has the deputy dean of students. The dean of students took early retirement. The campus has become such a toxic environment for Jewish students, one professor told SAJR in January this year, that many practising Jewish students prefer to leave their religion out when filling in their administrative documentation.

To follow the previous anti-Zionist actions of Rhodes, read the stories below:

Related reads and dozens of comments:

ANT INTERVIEW PODCAST - the day the Rhodes story broke SAJR’s online editor, Ant Katz, was interviewed on ChaiFM.

Rhodes -  Rhodes Dr Sizwe Mabizela (front right) leads a march against gender-based violence



RIGHT: Larissa Klazinga, who chose to tell the story in her own words on SAJR Online in January. The story had tens of thousands of reads at the time




LARISSA’S TALE
 in which Ms Klazinga tells her own story of her two-year-long nightmare and ultimate saviour by members of the SA Jewish community.

RHODES PAYS DEARLY FOR ANTI-ZIONIST STAND was the SAJR’s story that blew the lid on Larissa’s episode and other goings-on at Rhodes – and the link between BDS, IAW and Rhodes.

CHARGE SHEET PDF - has 15 charges (7 relate to religion or religious politics) & 18 further "points of discussion" of which 9 relate to Israel. The term "Israel" is expressed 10 times on the charge sheet.

OUTRAGE OVER "HOMOPHOBIA" POSTERS published in the Mail & Guardian on May 31, when Rhodes threatened to disband their internal “Fairness Forum” for not agreeing that pro-Israel posters were racist.

REPUBLICATION OF APRIL STORY that brought matters to a head – the republication was read over 4 000 times in five days with an average read time of just over six minutes.

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