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Campus battlefields are now more level




The re-telling of the momentous events that led to the fall, deeper fall and ultimate toppling of a regime at Rhodes University that allowed, and, many pundits would say, encouraged anti-Israel bias and outright racism towards Jewish staff and students, is not required. It already appears on the pages of this website in  detail.

Rhodes BagsA five word headline quote from one of the heroes of this tawdry tale, immediate past national president of the SAJBD, the Cape Chamber of Commerce, one of SA’s leading labour attorneys and now DA MP and deputy shadow minister for labour, Michael Bagraim (Pictured RIGHT) – a former Rhodian himself – sums it all up: a Jewish staffer had been “targeted for her Zionist affiliations”.

What had emerged in a report by a Jewish leadership delegation sent in April 2013 to investigate complaints by Jewish students and staff on campus unravelled into a sorry tale of Jews and Zionists being persecuted at Rhodes. It took a former mayor, the SAZF, a website and a handful of heroes backed by a determined lawyer to ensure Rhodes paid for their failure of stakeholders.

Investigations by the SAJR (which are ongoing) showed how they had seemingly also illicitly been using institutional funds to back BDS, Israel Apartheid Week and other anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish activities on campus.

Kruger - FransIt also cost Rhodes millions in current and future donor funding from Jewish sources!

Top story of the year

In all, over twelve months, some 56 CONTENT ITEMS were posted on Rhodes’ anti-Israeli activities. They were read over 25 000 times and resulted in over 300 user-posted comments.

Wits & UCT

Over the same period, for example, 98 CONTENT ITEMS ON WITS were posted. While the earlier posts illustrate an almost anarchic situation where student hooligans tried their utmost to act as Rhodes did, the vast majority cover the period after newly-appointed VC Prof Adam Habib entered the picture.

No great lover of Israel in his personal capacity, Prof Habib took charge with a no-nonsense approach that quickly reminded the student community and outside forces such as BDS and Cosatu who was in charge of the campus.

The evolving Rhodes’ fiasco, no doubt, informed some of Prof Habib’s decisions and he went on to ensure that Wits was a campus where Jewish students and staffers could feel safe and at home.

Similarly, were Jewish Report Online users to search through the 34 CONTENT ITEMS ON UCT they would find out how Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price, too, has stamped out anti-Israel hooliganism on his campus over the past year.

In essence, this was Larissa’s tale

Rhodes - Klazinga Larissa“One of the reasons I wanted to tell the story in my own words was because I wanted to make clear that Rhodes is not an institution full of scoundrels,” Larissa Klazinga (Pictured RIGHT) told the SA Jewish Report Online. “There are a lot of very good people there who stood by me,” she said, adamant that her version of the story be published first.

01 Oct 2013:
RHODES DEBATE ISSUE LEAVES UNANSWERED QUESTIONS – Rhodes was unable to decide how to proceed after SA Jewry declined to participate in a campus debate. Rhodes subsequently cancelled the debate. The topic: “Israel is an apartheid state”. By ANT KATZ

01 Oct: CONCERN OVER ANTI-JEWISH ACTION ON CAMPUSES – Since ‘94 SA has worked hard to dissolve the institutions of race and heal wounds between communities. We have made huge strides but there is still much work to do – an op-ed by CHUCK VOLPE

30 Dec: THE STORY THE BOARD DIDN’T WANT READ – Originally published on April 25 on MyShtetl under the headline “Rhodes anti-Israel shocker”, the story was read over 13 000 times on that website, had numerous angry comments posted and was widely quoted. It also resisted all attempts at being pulled; started the migration of donor funds to the institution and initiated several investigations that led to embarrassing findings and senior staffers leaving, retiring early or simply resigning.

01 Jan: RHODES UNIVERSITY: NOT A HOME FOR ALLLarissa’s Tale in her own words – all-time #2 read on website with over 10 000 direct reads. Many comments and link to download in a PDF format – by LARISSA KLAZINGA.

Rhodes - Dr Badat01 Jan: RHODES PAYS DEARLY FOR ANTI-ZIONIST STANDRead how Jews and Zionists were persecuted at Rhodes and how it took a former mayor, the SAZF, a journalist/publisher and some heroes backed by a determined lawyer to ensure Rhodes paid for their atrocious failure – by ANT KATZ

LEFT: Rhodes campus with former VC Badat inset 

02 Jan: The CHARGE SHEET PDF – against Larissa had 15 charges (7 relate to religion or religious politics) and 18 further “points of discussion” of which nine related to Israel. The term “Israel” is expressed 10 times on the charge sheet. VC denied knowledge of it and tore it up the same evening

08 Jan: THE AFTERMATH – The then-eight-week-old Jewish Report website had over 10 000 reads in just five days, with readers logging in at a rate of up to 400 per hour, from a single story gone viral. “Granted, it is not every day that Rhodes tries to fire a Jewish staffer for being pro-Zionist & gay, or that such staggering revelations about BDS would emerge,” we wrote at the time. “BUT THIS WEEK THERE IS A LOT MORE TO REPORT” wrote ANT KATZ, and there sure was.

29 Jan: RHODES U RESPONDS TO JEWISH REPORT – Rhodes’ VC posted a lengthy response to the story. Badat and other key role-players at Rhodes were contacted for comment before the publication of the story relating to the dismissal of a Jewish staffer. Dr Badat refused to do so at the time. Their response was posted without comment, other than to say: “SA Jewish Report considers numerous portions of the Rhodes response defamatory and substantially inaccurate. SAJR holds a significant trove of documents that prove that what was published was correct – and that the Rhodes response is evasive, erroneous and does not level any specific allegations of inaccuracy.” By DR SALEEM BADAT

19 March: BDS ON THE BACK FOOT AFTER IRONIC IAWAt Rhodes, where much of the trouble started last year, the anti-Israel lobby found themselves choked of funding & only managed to hold a small event. “Rhodes was very good,” agrees SAUJS’ national chairman Ariela Carno, “we were the only people who had a presence there.” SAUJS’ Cape chairman even managed to get BDS posters removed and SAUJS’ posters put up! By ANT KATZ

01 April: HIDDEN AGENDA OF ‘ISRAELI APARTHEID WEEK’Senior Rhodes lecturer & active Christian Zionist submitted this “most interesting letter” from a “politics student on the recent Israeli Apartheid Week held at Rhodes.” The letter was given to Pino Suliman, one of three Israeli students who supported the SA Union of Jewish Students during IAW at Rhodes – which flopped badly. By MARK WOODLAND

Stories in this series of Top Reads 2014:

03 Sept: ACTING RHODES VC ACCUSED OF ‘HATRED OF JEWS’Having dispensed with the old order, acting vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela stood accused by alumnus LINDA GORDON of making statements so “one-sided and inflammatory,” and “evidently fuelled by a baseless and unsubstantiated hatred of Jews.” “I take umbrage at the stance by the university…” she told him off.

10 Sept: RHODES IS HOTBED OF ANTI-ISRAEL ACTIVITY – SAUJS, Jewish & Christian Zionist students & staff at Rhodes express concern over deteriorating situation where anti-Israeli resolution was rejected by the Senate last week. “Jewish students keep their heads down & don’t advertise their religious affiliation,” said SAUJS’ national chairman Ariela Carno this week. During Operation Protective Edge the campus once again became ground-zero for anti-Israeli activities. SEE VIDEO of a supposed impartial debate on the Media and Gaza. By ANT KATZ

  • Related read: FRIEDMAN, GORDON & USERS FIGHT IT OUT published over the past week, Victor Gordon and Prof Steven Friedman have been exchanging letters in SAJR and users have piled in with comments too.
  • Related read: SENATE’S ‘NO!’ TO ANTI-ISRAELI RESOLUTION – PUBLISHED TODAY! It took three days of relentless pursuit by Jewish Report before Rhodes would admit that the resolution had been tabled before Senate. Read the full Resolution that was tabled.

How it all came to an end

Larissa Klazinga, the Jewish staffer who was at the heart of the matter, received a substantial (undisclosed) pay-out from the once austere university – after the Jewish media and leading communal lawyers gave of their time to crack open the case.

Very substantial sponsorships and grants have been withdrawn from Rhodes over the incidents. BDS members were sanctioned for operating spying activities against Klazinga and six senior Rhodes staffers, including the VC and a department head, are no longer there.

On the positive side…

Both Wits and UCT VCs adopted no-nonsense approaches to ensure to the best of their abilities that their Jewish students feel safe on their campuses. Wits, in particular, faced threats of the loss of substantial donor funding unless they complied.

While tens of thousands of words have been written on the subject on Jewish Report’s pages and online over the past year, much has had to be left unsaid – in the best interests of the community’s future relations on campuses.

After reading the stories highlighted here, users will realise how toxic the Rhodes campus has become for Jewish students – and why many practicing Jewish students choose to leave their religion question blank on enrolment.

Jewish Report’s investigative team is still working with [resent and past faculty members to show that a lot more public funds than have been admitted to were used illegitimately (and, maybe, even unlawfully) to support anti-Israel activities over the past several years.

Watch this space…

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. nat cheiman

    Jan 1, 2015 at 10:45 am

    ‘What I notice about many affirmative appointments to educational institutions in this country, is that almost all are Doctors, Professors, war heroes and men for all seasons. Dr Badat is one of them and I hear that he really got his rectum kicked. My view is also, that no university will in all likelihood touch him because of his contamination (when you sleep with dogs you are likely to wake up with fleas). Badat and and his affirmative allies remind me of Pallo Jordan, Ellen Tshabalala, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and others who claim to be \”educated\”. Wits too have a VC that purportedly is a whizz at almost all things. How I miss the \”old school\”VC’s that were at Rhodes and Wits during the days that education meant passing subjects and not passing students to  try and  keep up with transformation.  ‘

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