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Israel Apartheid Week – my perspective

  • Habib Adam 15
Israel Apartheid Week has quickly become the new buzz on campuses nationwide. Over the past four years, writes SAUJS Chairman Natan Pollack, pictured, I have experienced four different campaigns, each having a particular focal point on a different area in Israel; ranging from the “genocide” in Gaza, oppression in the West Bank or, my favourite, the destruction of wildlife by the JNF!
by NATAN POLLACK | Mar 24, 2015

Having gone through various community structures, I have been at the forefront of these campaigns, and can unequivocally say that this is age-old Jew-hatred in a modernised form.

While flagrant anti-Semitism is unacceptable on campuses, support of organisations such as BDS is viewed as a noble cause, especially by the born-free generation whose parents also fought the same “apartheid” war. However, despite the proposed BDS initiative, what transpires on campus has absolutely nothing to do with a possible resolution in Israel, but rather manifests itself as a venomous spewing of misinformed, radicalised Jew-hatred.

Having sat in meetings with leaders of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (also members of BDS), it can be said they act with a sense of professionalism and apparent “understanding”. It is the lobbied, uneducated protesters who accurately communicate their core (BDS) message. And without a doubt, “Shoot the Jew”; “We love Hitler” and “F-ings Jews”, has been chanted repeatedly on campus.

The use of factually blinded, radical comrades as on-the-ground support, has become the standard BDS modus operandi. It must be noted how the leadership of the BDS consistently distances themselves from these individuals only in times of disciplinary action.

Certainly, SAUJS has the responsibility to uphold and support the voice of Jewish students on campus. There is no more important time to do so, than Israel Apartheid Week, where SAUJS fights to ensure the State of Israel is not demonised, delegitimised and trampled upon.

In response, SAUJS has started a campaign called “Give Peace Wings”. This campaign is centred on the idea of creating a space where both Jewish students feel represented; and non-SAUJS members feel willing to engage with SAUJS members.

Gone are the days where we decided to let emotion hijack our ability to engage with everyday students; we have learnt the “Israel isn’t an apartheid state because...” approach simply draws us further away from any constructive solution on campus. We learnt the only way to stop the anti-Israel plague was educational open engagement. This approach, I am pleased to state, has proved revolutionary!

Our theme for 2015 was “#LetsTalkSolutions”, with the aim to discuss past and present negotiations in Israel and how the South African legacy could be used to create a constructive awareness on the part of both the Israeli government and Palestinian Authority.

We soon realised that the overwhelming majority of students we engaged with could not point out Israel on a map; these were untouched gems to our peace initiative.

After basic engagement, we told our story, our opinion and certainly that the BDS tactics of adding more hate and problems to the existing hate and problems, solved absolutely nothing – indeed, is entirely counter-productive. It was quite astounding to see the sudden interest of hundreds of students, requesting more material to read at home – a sure victory for SAUJS.

Given the aforementioned campaign, we need not to forget about the SAUJS members, who so desperately need a voice on campus during IAW. While student apathy is an age-old problem, it is quite remarkable to see how many Jewish students take an active role when attacked for their beliefs.

On the Thursday, SAUJS held a peace rally which saw some 300 students (both members and non-members) come to the campus lawns on Wits, holding a 25 metre banner and placards with messages such as “We want peace, not war”, “Peace activists should not support Hamas” and “Let’s talk solutions”.

For about 30 minutes, the students were joined by the arms, singing Hatikvah, nkosi Sikelel iAfrika and chanting “We want peace”. These 30 minutes were undoubtedly my proudest and most powerful moment on a South African campus.

To stand with hundreds of students who shared a common goal of peace, unity and the State of Israel, allowed me to live my constitution; it allowed me to be a South African Jew.

The element of pride proved to be the most crucial element to the success of the week. The element of pride is undeniably present in Jewish students, and it makes our cause and purpose legitimate. The willingness of students to engage with SAUJS members, was far greater when we unequivocally supported our cause on initial interaction.

It can be said with confidence that both Jewish and Israeli pride is the building block to any form of engagement or platform of communication on campuses.

With a modernised form of Jew-hatred on campus, fused with the revolution of social media, with images and news being shared every second, Jewish students find themselves in a very challenging environment.

The importance of on-the-ground support and engagement, has never been so vital. We need to remember the true aim of BDS is not to help the Palestinians; it is to wipe the Jewish homeland off the map entirely.

However, despite their efforts, Jewish students equipped with SAUJS leadership and its strategic planning, will continue to be Proudly South African Jews. 

  • NATAN IS THE NATIONAL CHAIRMAN OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN UNION OF JEWISH STUDENTS (SAUJS)

2 Comments

  1. 2 nat cheiman 24 Mar
    Have you ever seen a Jew with a placard reading "F******g
    Muslims" or "Go back to Syria/ Libya".
    No you haven't .Have you ever seen Jews with a baseball bat slugging away at BDS protesters in Woolies or Sandton shouting "you f*******g Muslim Arabs". or "This is not your country muslim". No I don't think you have. I wonder why.  
  2. 1 Dean 24 Mar
    Well done Natan. Great job. Feels good to know someone got your back at campus. Let's hope more students will be involved next year so we can put this hate campaign to sleep.     

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