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How Gaza won their war so well

In this, the first of a two-part sub-series on anti-Semitism, Ant Katz postulates that Israel, by no option or volition of its own, put Diaspora Jewry in peril by being goaded into losing Operation Protective Edge so badly to an enemy that wanted its blood and guts spilled as a means towards a strategic goal it was ready for… The Gazans and their masters got everything they wanted out of what would always become a horrible war, because that is exactly how they had planned it…






In dealing with violent anti-Semitism, Israel is severely challenged!

Eighteen months ago, the Israeli Government and the country’s huge NGO-sector (like JAFA and the WZO) came to a number of realisations which had massive implications for the country – and, more importantly – for all world Jewry.

I am personally aware of at least two initiatives that followed as I have attended two high-level conferences over the past seven months and been briefed on these.

Katz Ant tallBoth involved Israel going through a massive change-of-life.

Israel had always seen the Diaspora as a pond to fish in for olim and chequebooks. They admit that. This is not to say that they were not proactive when required, like at Entebbe and Ethiopia, but in essence, for too long, Israel saw the Gola as being responsible for it.

RIGHT: Ant Katz

To be sure, that is how Israel was built. And when things are not broken, we don’t even think of the need to fix them. Changing circumstances and opportunities pass us by. It is human.

Then, the epiphany – Israel realised that it had become the big brother and that it was “sh” who had to take responsibility for the Jews in the Diaspora, and not the other way around.

Israel realised 18n months ago that all it was bigger, better, smarter, and more safe and stable than all the rest of world Jewry put together. It was time for Israel to become the parent and the Gola to become the child in this relationship.

One of their epiphanies, was that European Jewry was under renewed threat of violent anti-Semitism – and that France was at the centre of it all. Israelis don’t sit on their butts – so they formed task teams and jumped into action. Things really started to happen. They even went as far as taking out their old dusty file on an evacuation plan for French Jewry, blew off the dust and updated it.

They hastily convened emergency meetings on combating violent anti-Semitism and held three such conferences in a year – the first, of course (but incorrectly as it turned out) in the US, the second in France and the third, which probably would have been held in France, in Belgium in December. This was a well-placed move to show solidarity with the embattled Belgians, and, as I can attest, it was warmly welcomed.

But it hasn’t helped at all

So where have the world’s smartest people gone wrong? Why have things gone so far south, so quickly? Could they have done things differently? Could they not have at least in some small way turned things around over this period?

In reality, Israel was seemingly sucker-punched by Hamas in July. They found themselves being goaded into an operation which became a war, and it surely cannot be called anything else in hindsight, that they had no option but to fight. Their enemies knew what the outcome would be as they continued to goad the Israelis on by firing ever-more rockets from the rooftops of hospitals and inside UN schools.

Israel was forced to act against a blood-thirsty enemy. But the blood that Hamas and their handlers were thirsty for was not Israeli blood. It was the blood of their own. They knew full-well the impact that this would have on the lives and property of their own people. They knew the hardship it would bring in the short-term to their citizenry.

But this is an enemy that has always been prepared to play the long game; that is prepared to suffer if it suits the cause.

As every drop of Gazan blood was spilled, each building flattened, each picture going out of hungry and frightened children, the leaders, their handlers and the Muslim world in general rubbed their hands together in glee.

The war Gazans wanted to lose, big!

They had no desire to stop this happening – because they knew how it was being perceived in the so-called civilised world. And so they goaded even more, broke promises of ceasefires, allowed, nay, encouraged more of their own blood to spill and property to be destroyed.

Blood can be replaced by new births. Others would rebuild for them. They did not want to win the war physically. They couldn’t. So they chose to lose, and lose very, very big. They won exactly what they wanted to.

And they were ready, willing and able to capitalise on the post-apocalyptic situation. How and why? Because they had planned for that long before they starting goading, the war that they seemed to lose but actually won was simply a strategic part of a bigger plan.

A plan that involved their forcing Israeli’s hand, and then capitalising on their own people’s misery. Their strategic objective, which required them to continue to not cry uncle so they could lose so very, very badly – worked a treat for them. Because that was their strategy all along.

Even as the fighting continued they were mobilising around the world. Sympathy started to turn their way, but enough for them to stop losing. They hadn’t caused enough harm to themselves yet. Their strategic need required even more of their blood to be spilled, even more of their property to be destroyed, and the balance of death and destruction on their side of the fence to still be so much more “disproportionate”. And so they continued to goad. To force Israel’s hand.

Israel knew that their brethren in the Diaspora would pay a price. But what conceivable option did they have?

Where Israel failed…

Israel’s failure, and their failure to their brethren outside, was being ill-prepared for the post-apocalyptic environment. Like George Bush-the-second, he took Iraq and then seemed to wonder what to do with it. His father stopped short of Baghdad.

WZO snails n oxtopus

LEFT – how I see Jews and anti-Semites as they face off against each other now

He knew he couldn’t run the country any more than Israel could halt the hate-fest it had unwittingly and unwillingly caused in the Diaspora.


 I believe that:

  • Israelis don’t seem to have a deep understanding of modern anti-Semitism because they don’t experience it;
  • They seem to think of the US as the representatives of the Diaspora, but it is just not true;
  • Every host nation is different, but the US is so much more different, in so many ways, that they maybe know less about world Jewry in general than Israel does;
  • Jews are operating like a disparate group of small snails, all in their own little groups and sub-groups, while anti-Semites are as one giant octopus, with a single head and long and strong tentacles
  • Something has to be done, and soon, and collectively. There is much, much more to come in this writing…

WZO Conference reads on SAJR.CO.ZA

Israel was on the mark but got off to a slow start. Can they beat this disease?

“Enough of anti-Semitic Violence! Increase legislation to combat anti-Semitism!”

publishes details of hundreds of violent anti-Semitic attacks worldwide in 2014

details how over a million Euro-Jews are sitting on their shpielkes, and why

 of German Fed – on how it feels like to be a Jew in Europe in 2014

, Survivor& head of Belgian Jewry, tells how tough it is on European Jews

Introduction to series on December conference of WZO attended & written by ANT KATZ

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  1. steve marks

    Jan 15, 2015 at 10:56 am

    ‘Great piece, makes good sense to me’

  2. Choni

    Jan 15, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    ‘To in any way imply that Israel is the cause of world wide anti-Semetism is an insult to the ultimate sacrifice 22000 soldiers and 2000 men woman and children murdered by terrorists, made for our country.
    \nDiaspora Jews have brought anti-Semtism on themselves long before the rebirth of Israel in 1948, and will continue to do so until they come to their senses, and leave their foreign homes.
    \nBlaming Israel is a chillul Hashem. Exile is a curse and a punishment, and is the only cause of anti-Semitism.



    Hi Choni, Firstly, I made no such implication. Israel’s hand was forced, of that there is no question. It had to do what it had to do. I am certain that I made that quite clear. What I did say, was that a consequence of what Israel had to do had led to an increase in violent anti-Semitism. They are aware of that. Diaspora Jewry is aware of that. We don’t feel Israel had a choice and Israel, too, understand that there have been ramifications around the globe about what they had to do.


    The high-ranking and intellectual WZO team dealing with countering anti-Semitism has, for the most part, done a great job. They certainly don’t “blame” Israel as being the cause of what has happened. They do, however, accept the reality that we are seeing the consequences of Israel having done what she had to do.


    I refer you to the ANTI-SEMITISM STATS 2014 story, and specifically to the ADL list at the bottom of that story, where it is clear how the July events (for which, I stress again, I have heard no Jewish person anywhere suggesting Israel had any other choice than to act as they did) significantly increased the violent anti-Semitic acts worldwide. That is undeniable. But, again, it was a consequence and not a cause.


    I have clearly stated my belief that Hamas forced Israel’s hand and that Hamas was are the guilty party in all this.


    Melanie Phillips’ incredible lecture: “Diaspora Jewry, paying the price for Gaza” is also clear on this point. “The intractable problem of Gaza has been exacerbated by the meddling incomprehension of a western world that just doesn’t grasp how ISLAMIST FANATICS play by entirely different rules.\” That was said before Protective Edge played out, but expressed the same notion. Israel has to act as she does. Hamas forces her to, and then plays the world for fools. Hamas and their masters and cronies are the “cause” that stoke the flames of violent anti-Semitic acts worldwide. 





  3. Stanley Friedman

    Jan 16, 2015 at 6:23 am

    ‘Hi Ant, You are right ↪ ????%!

  4. Choni

    Jan 16, 2015 at 7:40 am

    ‘Ant, So what exactly is the purpose of your column?

    Maybe the answer will be more clear in the second half.’

  5. Denis Solomons

    Jan 16, 2015 at 8:35 am

    ‘A miss-leading title; Gaza never won the war !

  6. nat cheiman

    Jan 16, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    ‘The world is in turmoil because of radical Islam. Not so with Israel. There are many incidents in Europe and USA that go unreported because they are onto these savages.

    Not so in Israel. The jews deal with these issues and sometimes the rest of the world doesn’t like it. Europe will learn quickly that it should not throw stones if they live in glass houses. I do not believe Israel is worse off because of Gaza. Gazans are worse off.On top of it all, Europe will learn from the Israeli’s how to deal with barbarism. There always was anti Semitism and always will be. All that the Gaza war has done is to create an excuse for anti semites . All the non jews that I have as friends and associates, know what the global problem is and the species of human being that commits these atrocities. These despicable people are not liked at all. Remember, that Christians understand that they are not free to practice their religions in Muslim countries. They are free in Israel. The Gaza war was good for Israel and the next Gaza war will be too.

    Thugs must be taught a lesson and a lesson they WILL LEARN .’

  7. Ant Katz

    Jan 18, 2015 at 4:15 am

    ‘Hi Dennis, thanks for your comment. What I am proffering is that Hamas achieved the strategic aims it set out to achieve. In Spades!

    I’m suggesting that this was never a military campaign by Hamas, but rather that the military component was a small part of their bigger strategy, the propaganda war it set out to achieve – and this it certainly won… that they wanted to lose the war and that they wanted do do so badly. 

    By thus doing, and (as it can, surely, only have anticipated), this was achieved at the expense of a considerable loss of blood and property to its own citizens to boot. For this, these leaders should face the ICC on murder charges, knowingly and unnecessarily having put in place a strategy that killed their own people’

    My reasoning will become apparent in my op-ed #2.

    Ant Katz’


    Jan 18, 2015 at 5:04 am

    ‘Hi Nat, thanks, too, for your very valid point. Israel is in a very different position
    \nto the diaspora and I hope that nothing I have written here indicates
    \notherwise. And Israel was forced to take the steps she did (in chess one calls
    \nit the ‘tempo’, where the gains the tempo by limiting the other party’s reaction to a small window of options to deal with an imminent threat).
    \nWhen you say: “I do not believe Israel is worse off because of
    \nGaza. Gazans are worse off”, 
    I couldn’t agree with you more.
    \nMy op-ed doesn’t touch on or dispute the post-war well-being of Israelis and Gazans, not at all. Of course it is radicalised, meshugenas Islamists who are at fault. There is no dissention between us on that point.
    \nBut Israel is left with huge debt and Gaza lies in blooded ruins.
    \nUnder the global microscope, the Gazan leadership, and, I cannot repeat this enough, has come out looking rosy (as in: “Shame, the poor Gazens”; and “Israel offends
    \nhuman rights, it kills civilian women and children”). Both Hamas and Israel have
    \naccrued huge debts from this operation. Gaza will be be rebuilt for them by others – Hamas knows that, Hamas was playing to a world stage here.
    \nI, suggest this to have been the strategy of the thugs who head Hamas and their masters, at the expense of their own people – and the blame has to be placed squarely on their shoulders.
    \nIsrael, however, is better off in some respects, and worse I others. They suffered a considerable cost of having to acquire and replace domestic and foreign weaponry,
    \nwhich it will be paying off for many years to come. And, while their injury and death-toll was moderately low, the incredible number of traumatised Israelis will require years and years of treatment. Some will even carry their emotional burden for life.
    \nThat said, the various components of the IDF, police, MDA and other state organisations has not had a ‘live drill’ of this magnitude since the 1971 Yom Kippur War. They have been restructuring their tactics and forces for some years. Whereas they were previously primarily configured to face conventional armies, they have been
    \nchanging their focus to deal with militants who are not under the wing of a state per se.
    \nThis recent war must have been a great learning curve for the IDF, to test their latest weapons-systems and personnel on the one hand, while having a chance to evaluate their enemies’ at the same time.
    \nYou say: “The Gaza war was good for Israel and the next Gaza war will be too. Thugs must be taught a lesson and a lesson they WILL LEARN”.
    \nOf course, on the battlefield, you are quite correct. Israel came out on top. But I hasten to make a seminal final point: This op-ed is not about the Israel/Hamas engagement. It is, sadly, about the collateral huge increase of anti-Semitism in the diaspora.
    \nI use the word ‘collateral’ as (while I wouldn’t put it past them), I am postulating that
    \nHamas’ strategy all along was to damage Israel’s global image and enhance the
    \nparable of how Israel “kills Palestinian women and children” in a willy-nilly, uncaring manner.
    \nThis, I am sure you will agree, worked very well for them outside Israel (never mind their women and children had to die to make the point). This is borne out by the fact
    \nthat the PA has achieved much world sympathy anti-Israel protests have become more frequent and larger; and that acts of violent anti-Semitism have increased considerably.
    \nAnt Katz

  9. Choni

    Jan 18, 2015 at 7:25 am

    ‘Wrong … 


    \nSorry, Choni, completely omitted because you are boring us all with the same old, same old. Please stop spamming as we have neither the time and patience for it, and our users regularly complain about it. If you do not have an interest in anyone else having the right to an opinion, please do not read them – or at least do not comment on them unless you have something to contribute beyond your three stock answers. If you really disagree with someone, tell them why – instead simply insulting their opinion.
    \nANT KATZ,



  10. nat cheiman

    Jan 18, 2015 at 11:31 am

    ‘Hi Ant, of course you are correct in asserting that there was collateral damage to jews and Israel. Perhaps in my enthusiasm, I overlooked the fact that generally, in the diaspora, many people hate or dislike jews. It may also be that people dislike muslims and arabs but jews are easier to dislike because we don’t bomb or have jihads etc. So YES!!! everytime Israel retaliates, Europe and especially the Scandinavian countries become vocal about DISPROPORTIONATE use of force. Never mind that Jews die and are savagely killed. Off the record, I truly wish I could attend a decent military college so that I can full understand the use of disproportionate force during warfare. And also learn how other countries would react if someone fired rockets at their cities. However, I deviate. Whether or not there is a settlement in Gaza and whether or not ABBAS recognizes Israels right to exist, The world will always dislike the Jews. We are a people that will forever have to watch our backs. Unfortunate but true.

    Win or lose, Israel has a huge propaganda mountain to climb.

    I think, by the way, the Israeli’s need to employ media friendly/clever types whenever there is a crisis because guys like Peter Lerner and the Ozzie guy, in my opinion just don’t cut it.  ‘

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Couple caught in crossfire of attempted mall robbery



A young couple attempted to flee the scene of a botched armed robbery at Melrose Arch on Easter Monday, only to get caught in a hail of bullets.

Today, Brandon Regenbaum, 27, lies in hospital in a serious but stable condition under heavy sedation following a five-hour long operation to reconstruct his jaw and repair his mouth. He was shot in the face after robbers hastily fled the upmarket lifestyle mall where they had tried unsuccessfully to rob Elegance Jewellers.

His girlfriend of three years, Lorian Blechman, 25, witnessed the whole scene and luckily escaped unharmed.

The couple, who were due to leave for a holiday in Umhlanga Rocks that day, met for breakfast at Tashas. They left the mall in separate vehicles and found themselves unwittingly in the middle of a gun battle between fleeing suspects and the mall’s security guards.

“The robbers were running towards the Virgin Active Gym. We quickly took a different exit to avoid them, it was scary,” said Blechman.

They beckoned to each other to take an alternative exit near the Daytona shop in a bid to dodge the fleeing suspects. To their horror, they were then confronted by the robbers – who had made it to their escape vehicles – further down the road on Athol/Oaklands Drive in the direction of the N1 highway.

The couple could see the suspects’ vehicles in their review mirrors, so they instinctively swerved out of the way to allow them to speed past. There were loud gunshots, after which Blechman noticed Regenbaum wasn’t driving. She frantically called him to ask why.

He told her, “Babe I love you, but I’ve been shot and I’m going to die.”

Traumatised and still in shock, Blechman told the SA Jewish Report that she jumped out of her car and ran to him.

Speaking from hospital, she said, “There was blood and glass everywhere, and he was in a lot of pain. He told me he was dying. I remember pulling up his hand brake,” she said.

A young Jewish couple walking their baby immediately called Hatzolah, which arrived a few minutes later. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, another witness helped Blechman to make several calls to family. She told Blechman to keep talking to Regenbaum.

“I told Brandon that help was on the way. I told him his mother and brother were coming. I asked him where I could find his Discovery medical card. I told him general things like he was going to be okay, to stay with me, to stay awake. I told him to count how long it would take me in seconds to run to my car 10m away to get my keys,” she said.

Blechman called her father, who was already in Harrismith en route to Umhlanga Rocks where they were supposed to meet later.

Regenbaum’s father, Clifford, was in Plettenberg Bay on holiday when he received the call telling him his son had been shot.

“I was shocked,” he told the SA Jewish Report.

He believes his son was shot by the robbers who may have mistaken him for a security guard in hot pursuit.

“He drives a bakkie with our company name on the side which looks like a security vehicle and even has hazard lights. The robbers had already seen him leaving Melrose Arch, and I think believed him to be a security guard. I honestly believe they tried to kill him,” he said.

“It has been a stressful, worrying time. He will recover, but it will take time. I’m angry at this senseless shooting of innocent people. My son could have died. These robbers have no respect for human life. I don’t know what there is to learn from this.”

Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubele told the SA Jewish Report, “Police are investigating a case of attempted business robbery and attempted murder which occurred at Melrose Arch.

“It is alleged that an unknown number of suspects driving in two cars, an Audi Q7 and a Ford Ranger, were in a shootout with security guards after they were intercepted before the business robbery,” Makhubele said. “A man who was driving his car [Regenbaum] was shot and injured during the incident. Nothing was taken from the shop.”

While doctors have told the family the operation was successful, Regenbaum will have his jaw wired for seven weeks, and won’t be able to talk or eat solid food.

“It will be a long road to recovery,” said Blechman.

“It’s a miracle Brandon survived. It’s also freaky that we were in separate cars. If I had been with him on the passenger side of the car, I might not be here today. I was running late. Brandon needed to fetch his siddur and tefillin to assist my father with a minyan on holiday, as he is saying kaddish for my zaida who passed away last year. I believe my zaida was watching over us,” she said.

Police ask that anyone with information contact 0860 010 111.

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Israeli company turns SA water from toxic to drinkable



An Israeli company is assisting local government authorities to transform toxic water to healthy drinking water in what could be a game-changer for South Africa as a water-scarce country.

The company, BlueGreen Water Technologies, is a world leader in eradicating toxic algae from water sources, and has offered its expertise to South Africa.

With a branch in South Africa, the company started working at Setumo Dam on the Molopo River in North West province earlier this month. The project is in collaboration with Sedibeng Water, the company overseen by the Department of Water and Sanitation.

Speaking to the SA Jewish Report from Germany where he is currently based, BlueGreen Water Technologies Chief Executive Eyal Harel said, “Toxic algae blooms are like a ‘global pandemic’ of bacteria. They infest bodies of water, and when that population of bacteria explodes, it makes the water toxic. You can’t use that water for drinking or recreation, it depreciates property, it makes that body of water too hostile for other life forms, and it creates health and economic problems.”

The company believes in the value of all people having access to quality drinking water, Harel said, and it’s doing the work in South Africa on humanitarian grounds. “At the Setumo Dam, it’s more like lots of bacteria with a bit of water in between. But half a million people rely on it for drinking water. We came to help get good quality drinking water to these communities.” Local government departments and officials had been “extremely helpful … everyone is working together”, Harel said. “Even in this time of pandemic and reduced budgets, they are doing an excellent job.”

He said the condition of the dam meant it was impossible to treat it from the ground, so they have had to deploy helicopters to distribute product from the air. “This is the first operation of its kind in the world. It’s new for us too, and requires lots of co-ordination with government officials, water boards, and locals.”

The company describes its products as “floating, slow-release formulations of market-approved algaecides designed to prevent the intensification of cyanobacterial toxic blooms in freshwater bodies [also known as ‘blue green algae’]”.

Harel said he was motivated to work with water as “water touches all people, no matter their differences.” With 22 March being ‘World Water Day’, he emphasises that “two billion people around the world only have access to poor quality water. About 99.9% is left untreated, and people think there is nothing they can do. We want to educate decision-makers that this isn’t the case anymore. Lakes can be treated, even much bigger lakes than Setumo Dam. In addition, algae blooms can actually be prevented.”

Harel got married in Cape Town, and was there during the height of the drought in 2018.

“I remember the term ‘Day Zero’, and how frightening it was,” he said, pointing out that drought also contributes to algae blooms because with less water, “pollution concentrates and bacteria grows. It becomes even more toxic, less liquid, and makes the existing problem much worse. That could be the reason Setumo Dam was in such appalling condition.”

The company also assisted Roodepoort Dam, reducing toxic levels of algae in the water two weeks before a rowing competition in March 2020, just before the pandemic hit. However, Harel said Setumo Dam was in much worse shape. “It’s first and foremost a drinking water source,” he said. “It’s in a rural area that borders Botswana, and the communities are about as poor as it gets. So it’s our small way of helping.”

He emphasises that the company is “completely non-political” and is simply trying to reach out to areas where it knows there is an acute problem. It has even reached out to other Middle Eastern countries that aren’t friendly to Israel. “We aren’t here to make a political stand but a humanitarian one, and any human-rights organisation should understand that.

“Part of our agenda is to empower local communities to take responsibility for their local water source. We come as guests,” he says. “In all likelihood, if the dam isn’t maintained, it will go back to the way it was. So, our ultimate goal is to train local communities to be able to assess water conditions. They will be the ‘boots on the ground’ and raise the flag that there is a problem. We work with real-time remote sensing capabilities and satellite imagery to assess conditions in the lake, so they will be part of that process.

“We have established good relationships with the government. It sees the problem for what it is, and is taking a long-term approach. We are totally committed to improving water quality in South Africa, and we see the same from government.”

The company’s director of operations in South Africa, Jurgens van Loggerenberg, told the SA Jewish Report that he had worked in water-treatment processes throughout South Africa for the past 20 years.

“Over the past two decades, I’ve seen a decline in the management of infrastructure and water quality. It’s a big problem as it affects people’s lives. So, when I saw BlueGreen’s technology and what it could mean for the improvement of water quality, I was fascinated.” He joined the company soon afterwards.

He believes the technology could “be a game-changer for South Africa. Toxic bacteria means that humans suffer. And it’s never been looked at this way before. Water has been treated only at the treatment facility. I don’t think the team has ever treated water of this poor quality before, but it has a strong strategy. We have the support of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, and the Department of Water and Sanitation. They are standing behind it. They believe in the technology and what it can do for the environment. They know it can help them achieve their goals.

“One thing we observed is that there are so many shops in the area that sell bottled water,” he said. “The day the community can open the tap and have safe drinking water will be a big day for the country.”

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Wits protest an education in activism



“When I look back to my youth in years to come, I don’t want to have to tell my children I was one of the people who kept to the side and stayed silent. I want to tell them that as a white, Jewish woman in a democratic South Africa, I led.”

So says Gabi Farber, a student activist who, together with other Jewish youth, has committed herself to the fight against financial and academic exclusion at South African universities.

They join a growing movement of university students who in recent weeks embarked on a nationwide protest over tuition fees with demands including the allocation of funding for excluded students and a zero fee increase for the 2021 academic year.

Farber, the legal and policy officer of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), has been integrally involved in the protest.

“We have been on the ground every day,” she told the SA Jewish Report. “Walking through the streets of Braamfontein creating mass awareness about the students’ financial-exclusion crisis.”

Following the shutdown of various campuses, violence has escalated in the past few days, with police responding to demonstrations with rubber bullets, stun grenades, and teargas, and arresting protesting students in Braamfontein. A bystander, Mthokozisi Nthumba, was tragically shot and killed by police last week.

Says Farber, “The first few days were scary. The police were out of control, and you could see they didn’t know what they were doing, shooting rubber bullets directly at people without giving time to disperse. A grenade landed on my foot and burst my eardrums. It was dangerous.

“The media suggests there are hundreds of us and that the protestors are violent. In reality, it’s very calm on the ground, and there aren’t too many of us.”

The police have calmed down in recent days, Farber says, and those responsible for Nthumba’s death were due to attend a hearing on Wednesday, 17 March.

“I couldn’t let [the police brutality] turn me away though,” she says. “There are risks when you’re fighting for change. What’s scarier to me would be doing nothing at a time like this.”

Natanya Porter and Benjamin Atie have also been actively involved.

“On Monday, there were about 50 protestors, and we were chanting and singing peacefully in the street,” recounts Porter, South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) officer at Wits’ education campus. “Suddenly, the police arrived in hippos [armed vehicles] and water-cannon trucks as if there were thousands of us burning down Braamfontein. They used a disproportionate amount of force.”

Beyond active involvement in the protest, Porter and Atie have also been involved in assisting students arrested by police, providing them with snacks and support while they awaited trial last week.

“There was no reason for their arrest,” Porter says. “We believe that the police just grabbed whoever was in a protest t-shirt and who was slowest at running away. In the end, the magistrate dismissed the case.

“As an education student, I believe that it’s a right not a privilege. I don’t think it’s fair for education to be available only to the few who can afford it. I’m heartbroken and shocked at the way the police responded.

“A total of 8 142 Wits University students are financially excluded,” says Atie, SAUJS Wits chairperson. “This means that these students passed last year in spite of all its challenges, but aren’t being allowed to return because they are in debt to the university.

“As Jews, this issue speaks to us because we have always placed a major focus on education and supporting the impoverished. It’s our responsibility to assist these students in whatever way we can.”

Indeed, the role played by the young Jewish activists has raised the profile of the fees issue within the broader Jewish community, says political analyst and former SRC activist Jamie Mighti.

“We have to be cognisant living in South Africa that there are challenges to upward social mobility, including historic poverty and exclusion,” he says. “One of the recognised ways to lift oneself up is through education. The Jewish community is world renowned for prioritising the value of education.

“To see young people like this stand in the gap with other students and use their voices reminds one of the roles played by Jews in fighting apartheid. The Jewish community will look back at this moment and say this was the birth of South African leaders and the re-emergence of Jewish activism within the broader South African conversation.”

Former SAUJS Wits chairperson, Yanir Grindler, stresses that more Jewish students need to get involved. “I’m left with a sense of anger towards the broader Jewish student population,” he says. “It has been so difficult to get them involved. A minority of Jewish students have been there on a consistent basis alongside Gabi protesting with the students. The rest are quite disconnected because they feel it doesn’t really affect them. That’s naïve, because it does.”

Farber, Porter, and Atie agree that more Jewish students need to play their part.

Says Atie, “One of the biggest criticisms we receive at SAUJS is that we come across as a union which cares only about Israel and Jews and not the larger South African community. It’s this perception of Jews that enables anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric to enter the halls of parliament and academic circles of South Africa. Only by involving ourselves in the struggle of the larger South Africa can we begin to change this perspective.”

Many academics agree that the plight of financially excluded students must be addressed.

“There are multiple stories in and around the protests,” says Bonita Meyersfeld, a professor at Wits Law School. “Do I think they’re legitimate? Absolutely. The commercial reality demands a creative and imaginative rethinking, but that’s true of the country as a whole. My experience with the first Fees Must Fall movement showed me that students are desperate.

“Ignoring that pain or painting all protestors with the same brush of judgement and intolerance will never solve the problem.”

Barry Dwolatzky, emeritus professor of engineering at Wits, attests that the contribution each graduate makes far exceeds the cost of educating them. “The debate isn’t between students and university management,” he says. “It’s one between all of us and our government.

“Universities don’t have the resources to solve the problem in the long run. All they can do is apply a band aid here and there in the hope of managing the short-term situation. The future of South Africa depends on how well we support education.”

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