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Op-eds

The senseless tactic of defacing rather than debating

  • AboveBoardShaunZagnoev
On Tuesday, accompanied by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies’ national vice-president, Zev Krengel, and national director Wendy Kahn, I had the opportunity of meeting newly appointed ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule for the first time.
by SHAUN ZAGNOEV | Mar 15, 2018

The primary focus of the discussion was the recent spate of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories emanating from certain members of the ANC in the Western Cape. Mr Magashule reiterated his party’s unequivocal repudiation of any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, and undertook to take appropriate steps to address this issue.

The discussion was an encouraging step forward in placing our relationship with the ruling party on the kind of cordial, constructive basis that existed in the past. With the South African political situation now beginning to settle after a long period of instability, we will hopefully be able to build on this going forward.     

At the time of writing, the campaign by the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) in response to Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is well under way at the universities of the Witwatersrand (Wits) and Cape Town (UCT). Organised under the slogan “Dialogue not Division”, the campaign emphasises the values of engagement and education, in contrast with the boycott and demonisation approach used by the other side.

At Wits University, there is an excellent spirit amongst SAUJS students and the many Christian supporters of Israel who have joined them.

Once again, Israeli students from the international advocacy organisation StandWithUs are bringing an additional dimension of passion and energy. Backing all this up is a well thought-out and punchy social media campaign.

This year, the university has made the sensible decision to move IAW and the SAUJS counter-campaign to the West Campus. It has also allocated distinct spaces for the two parties to operate. This, along with the excellent campus security that is in place, has reduced the potential for confrontation.

Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) members attempted to shout down the SAUJS guest speaker Ishmael Khaldi, but signally failed to do so. They had, of course, no answer to Mr Khaldi’s observation that as a Bedouin of the Muslim faith, he would be unable to be a professional Israeli diplomat if Israel really was an apartheid state.

A similar message will have been sent by the fact that a second visiting speaker, former Miss Israel Yityish Titi Aynaw, hails from Israel’s large Ethiopian community.

SAUJS’s third guest is Syrian political activist Issam Zeitoun, who has spoken about the sobering realities of the ongoing tragedy in his own country, while drawing attention to the little-known and virtually unpublicised humanitarian aid that Israel is providing to those caught up in it.

All three of the visiting speakers have been interviewed in the media, while Mr Zeitoun has also met with local refugee groups and spoken to students at Wits University’s African Centre for Migration and Society.  

At UCT, IAW proponents resorted to their usual dirty tricks by prominently displaying an Israeli flag defaced with inflammatory slogans. It transpired that the flag was the one stolen from the SA Zionist Federation at last year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut event.

Likewise at Wits, the PSC, perhaps frustrated by how things are failing to follow its prepared script, resorted to daubing obscene graffiti on various parts of the campus. By choosing to “deface instead of debate”, its members have neither convinced any reasonable student about the validity of their cause nor endeared themselves to the Wits administration.

We are proud that our own students, despite being subjected to acts of real provocation, have never engaged in similar such crude acts of hooliganism. The board is in constant consultation with SAUJS, providing logistical assistance and advice whenever required. 

•         Listen to Charisse Zeifert on Jewish Board Talk, 101.9 ChaiFM every Friday 12:00-13:00.

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