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The Jewish Report Editorial

Academic freedom – no excuse for antisemitism

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As we count down to Yom Kippur this weekend, I cannot help wondering why the University of Cape Town (UCT) doesn’t just apologise to the South African Jewish community for allowing terrorists onto its campus, albeit online, to speak to students.

When the Hezbollah representative spoke last Friday, it surely didn’t escape the university leadership’s notice that this was the third time it had allowed people considered terrorists around the world to speak on campus.

It couldn’t have missed this point, considering that each time it has allowed it, the South African Union of Jewish Students, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, and the South African Zionist Federation have taken it up with the university. This newspaper has also written about it every time, and gone to UCT for a response. Surely it recognises how upsetting this is for the community?

Why would a university welcome people who are internationally known terrorists onto its campus – albeit online – and into its lecture halls? Why would a university’s leadership allow such people to sprout their prejudice in its hallowed halls?

Surely leaders of universities realise that this can only be harmful and invites prejudice onto a campus that purports to fight racism of any kind?

The organisations they welcome are clear to the world that they want to eliminate the Jewish state and all its people. They are open about their hatred, believing they have a right to it. And why not, seeing as they are given a free platform in what is still considered one of the best universities in Africa?

Once upon a time, UCT was known for its extensive Jewish student body. So much so, students from Stellenbosch University nicknamed the UCT’s rugby teams “Ikeys”, which came from the word “kikes”, an antisemitic epithet for Jews. Today, the teams are still known as Ikeys. But the university appears to be becoming less and less welcoming towards Jews because of its open-arms policy towards blatantly anti-Israel and antisemitic terrorist organisations.

Having a representative of Hezbollah on campus is outrageous.

Hezbollah is designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Arab League, and several other countries. But this didn’t make the university question the decision to allow its spokesperson to speak to students. I understand that South Africa hasn’t designated it a terrorist organisation, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t. And having Hezbollah speaking to students is hugely offensive to us.

The organisers of this week’s event sent out an invitation that stated, “A video message will be recorded by the participants [at the event] that will be sent directly to the Palestinian resistance Hamas and [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad!”

So, the students are called on to send messages of support to terrorist organisations? Really, this is acceptable on campus?

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a designated terrorist organisation by the European Union, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As for Hamas, it’s designated a terrorist organisation by Australia, Israel, the United States, the European Union, Britain, and Canada.

Surely, these countries know something about terrorism.

The fact that UCT allows this is offensive to the Jewish community in general. How can it not be? But, as in the past few occasions when the university has been called out on this same issue, it dismisses it as if it’s irrelevant and not something it gets involved in.

Would it allow people who are racist to stand up and speak about how they hate black people? It wouldn’t. I cannot believe that in that case, it would still say that as a university, it didn’t get involved in such things. Nobody would accept that.

Would people be allowed to speak about hatred towards Muslim people? Not even for a moment. How can a university of this stature allow itself to be used like this? What other organisations would it allow to speak out on campus?

Why is it okay for people who want to destroy the Jewish state to be allowed to speak on campus?

It’s the week of asking for forgiveness, and I believe we would certainly be open to UCT apologising and never doing it again. Perhaps it still will. It’s high time for the university to consider what it’s doing by giving terrorists an open platform on campus.

Some may argue that it’s about academic freedom, and universities should allow for as many viewpoints as possible. However, academic freedom isn’t an excuse for antisemitism. Also, an institution that purports to eradicate prejudice and racism cannot ignore prejudice and racism.

On a far more uplifting note, when you have a passing meeting with someone and they promise to do you a favour worth R270 000, you’re unlikely to believe them. I certainly would be a bit sceptical about such promises. However, when architect Gary Meyers told Kerry-Lee Brandt Salamon that he would get her a new prosthetic arm, he not only meant it, but actually did it in record time.

Brandt Salamon has had her fair share of bad luck after an almost fatal accident. But this week, when she gave birth to her baby girl, she also had this recent incredible experience to inspire her and a new prosthetic arm to help her to deal with the joys of first-time parenting.

Meyers did the right thing, but it was something nobody could possibly ask him to do. It was a huge venture to offer to raise this kind of money, but he took it on willingly.

He is proof positive about how rewarding it is to do good for others. It’s so evident that the reward for doing good is huge in terms of how you feel about yourself and the positivity it engenders in your life.

With the new year having come and gone and Yom Kippur on our horizon, let’s take a leaf out of Meyers’ book and get inspired by helping others.

Shabbat Shalom and g’mar chatima tova!

Peta Krost

The SA Jewish Report won’t publish next week due to the high holy days. We’ll be back the following week, on 5 October.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. yitzchak

    Sep 23, 2023 at 8:31 am

    as a south african expat and alumnus I won’t give a penny to Wits or UCT ever again.
    All the alumni reunions are to raise funds as was last year’s founder tea at wits.
    UCT and Wits have become hotbeds of anti white and anti semitic abscesses.
    Please dont give.

    Already many white and jewish medical graduates have been denied specialty posts at Wits medical school despite excellent grades

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