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Jewish protesters harassed at anti-Israel conference



Peaceful Jewish protesters were harassed and forcibly removed from outside the Sandton Convention Centre on 10 May, as they criticised Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr Naledi Pandor for endorsing encampments at universities in the United States (US) and South Africa.

Pandor was the keynote speaker at the “Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Israel” at the convention centre, and the protesters, from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) and South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), chose to emphasise that there was “no place for Jew hate” as she gave her address.

Speaking at the Shireen Abu Akleh Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on 8 May, Pandor said, “The student encampment at Columbia University has inspired students worldwide. We hope that this unprecedented activism by students in the US will spur greater activism among student movements here in South Africa, and spur more vocal support from our university administrators, some of whom have remained silent.”

On 10 May, Pandor visited the University of Cape Town, where she expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “There’s no struggle in the world which is won by observation. You support a struggle by being active. You don’t have to be in the trenches, but you must do something. That’s what I hope the students of South Africa will show the world – that we too can do something.” While she spoke, students hoisted a sign with pictures of terrorist leaders, saying, “South Africa stands with the resistance. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

“It’s beyond belief that a government minister would encourage the kind of anarchistic displays that are being seen on American campuses, and that she would wilfully put students at risk by trying to import the hate and aggression that are plaguing universities in the US,” says SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn.

“We know in South Africa that our campuses are tinderboxes,” she says. “Pandor put diplomats at risk when she recently called for protests outside embassies in South Africa, and now she’s endangering students. It’s highly irresponsible, especially in the weeks preceding university exams.”

SAUJS National Chairperson Shmuel Krengel says, “SAUJS is appalled by the blatant antisemitism of Pandor’s actions. Once again, she’s proven that there’s no mask, and she’s shown her full colours in the sense that her sole objective is to make campus unwelcome to Jewish students.

“But more than that, it’s so incredibly harmful to the students who are trying their best to get a university education and to lift their families and communities out of poverty, and who have real problems of their own. There hasn’t been water and electricity at Wits [University of the Witwatersrand] residences for the past week and a half, students have been struggling to feed themselves, and we just donated 7 000 meals. Pandor is using students as a tool for her personal vendetta, and shutting down the opportunity for 40 000 students to get an education.”

South African Zionist Federation National Chairperson Rowan Polovin says, “Pandor’s inflammatory, antisemitic, and factually inaccurate speech at UJ was a reckless endorsement of anti-Israel protests on South African university campuses. History has shown that these protests invariably devolve into antisemitic hate-fests, violating the dignity and constitutional rights of Jewish students and academics. By encouraging such aggression, Pandor, a sitting South African minister, is effectively sanctioning antisemitism and undermining the autonomy of universities.

“Pandor’s criticism of university administrators who oppose these dangerous protests is a further indication of her disregard for the safety and well-being of Jewish students and academics,” says Polovin. “Her actions are a blatant abuse of power and a betrayal of her responsibility to promote peace and equality for all South Africans. Had the ANC [African National Congress] government the moral fortitude to do so, it would criticise Pandor’s statements and reaffirm its commitment to protecting the rights of all its citizens, including the Jewish community.”

Dr Glen Segell, visiting professor and research fellow at the University of the Free State and a research fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Gulf States Research at the University of Haifa, notes the irony that “Pandor, when minister of education in 2008, urged students ‘to take their studies seriously and focus on them and nothing else’. She didn’t deviate from this for more than a decade, adamant in 2019 that ‘we don’t allow any person [student] to hijack legitimate protest for political mischief’.

“This caustic mix of politics and education by ANC elites isn’t a result of the Gaza War or the forthcoming South African elections,” says Segell. “It’s indicative of South Africa as a country, with serious problems of racism and violence, which is the reason, in 2015, that Blade Nzimande, the current minister of higher education, science, and innovation, was denied a visa to Israel, having at the time incited the South African police to attack migrants from neighbouring African countries.”

At the “Global Anti-Apartheid Conference on Israel”, Pandor made radical statements about Israel, calling to “end the apartheid system, which is worse than what we experienced in our country”, and supporting armed struggle, saying the Palestinians should resist through “mass mobilisation; armed operations; underground organisation [and] international solidarity work”.

“The Nakba involved a combination of mass murder and the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of native Palestinians by Zionist militias to replace them with Jewish immigrants and create what’s known today as the state of Israel,” she said. “Now, we’re witnessing ‘Nakba Two’ in Gaza.” She expressed similar sentiments in her address at UJ.

“Pandor’s comments are objectionable, devious, and disingenuous,” says analyst Adam Charnas. “On multiple occasions, the minister has indicated that Israel is undertaking a ‘genocide’, knowingly misrepresenting the findings of the International Court of Justice. The minister and the entire ANC government have no interest in the realities of the situation, but merely seek to besmirch the Israeli people with the genocide smear.”

Kahn says that during the SAJBD and SAUJS protest, “It was clear that the delegates attending the conference objected to the presence of Jews on the streets of Joburg, and did what they could to intimidate them. Not content with hurling abuse, showing zap signs, they came into our space, and physically pulled posters out of one of our protester’s hands, spat in her face, and told her to ‘f**k off’. The police were compliant with the aggressors, and physically relocated the protesters.”

The peaceful demonstration was limited to 15 people, thus was in the legal parameters for a public gathering. “Our Constitution states that South Africa belongs to all who live in it,” says Kahn. “The removal of peaceful Jewish protesters to ensure that anti-Israel conference attendees aren’t offended is a perversion of justice, and leads to further questions as to whether our government is doing the bidding of belligerent foreign powers, and whether South African Jews are unwelcome. This was a tangible example of exactly that. We once again call on our government to stop allowing hatred against Jews in this country.

“We insisted on our right to continue the protest, in spite of the police physically moving us,” Kahn says. “I want to express how proud I was of the SAJBD and SAUJS protesters, who stood up to the aggression of those provocateurs, refusing to cower to their violent intimidation.”

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  1. Gary

    May 16, 2024 at 12:01 pm

    South Africa is Nazi Germany 1938. The ANC is the NSDAP

  2. Abigail Sarah

    May 16, 2024 at 3:34 pm

    Why on earth are you giving meals to Joburg students?
    Israel needs your help at this critical time

  3. Angry

    May 16, 2024 at 9:57 pm

    What does this so very ugly female have a doctorate of?
    How to spew hatred and twist obvious truths to suit her agendas?
    I hope she is eliminated after the coming sham elections!

  4. Peter Bernstein

    May 17, 2024 at 7:10 am

    Surely criminal charges will be able to be laid against Pandor (and others) for committing hate speech in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Act as soon as it is signed into law.

  5. rafaelli

    May 17, 2024 at 8:08 am

    Sadly there will be more Palestinians competing in the Paralympics this year.
    The paired double amputee race will be one to watch.

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