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Sketchy Bongo’s sketchy story about IAW apology

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Well known music producer and DJ, Sketchy Bongo, claimed this week he wasn’t put under pressure by anti-Israel lobbyists into apologising for his performance at a peace and unity concert organised by Jewish students during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). However, the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) finds that hard to believe.
by NICOLA MILTZ | Apr 11, 2019

The popular DJ, whose real name is Yuvir Pillay, put on a lunch time musical concert arranged by SAUJS during its IAW #NoPlaceForHate campaign at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) last Thursday (April 5). The aim of the concert was to promote peace and unity, according to SAUJS.

SAUJS said the concert was well attended by students on campus, many of whom danced and waved the South African flag. Things turned ugly when members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) arrived in protest, allegedly confronting the artist after his show.

According to witnesses, they jeered and heckled spectators during the final stages of the performance, and afterwards verbally attacked members and representatives of the Israel advocacy group StandWithUs.

An online video shows an intense and angry altercation between one of the members of the PSC, Rashaad Yusuf Dadoo, and visiting Ethiopian-Israeli, Ashager Araro, from StandWithUs. It is believed that campus security intervened as the protestors’ verbal abuse escalated out of control.

A visibly shocked Sketchy Bongo watched as members of the PSC screamed their support for the terrorist organisation Hamas, completely disrupting the atmosphere at the peaceful unity concert.

Sketchy Bongo, known for his signature ski mask, was criticised for his performance by anti-Israel lobbyists on campus and on social media.

At 22:47 that night, the artist tweeted an apology. “I do not support any apartheid state. I want to apologise deeply for performing at Wits today. I didn’t think and do my research. I have been educated by your messages this evening, and have done further research. I feel terrible about accepting money for this show I didn’t fully understand, and I will never make this mistake again.”

He then pledged to donate money to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

Liora Katzew, the chairperson of SAUJS at Wits, told the SA Jewish Report this week that the artist had been put under pressure.

“We are used to these bullying tactics used by the PSC, which puts pressure on artists to follow its one-sided narrative. The SAUJS peace and unity concert had no reference to politics or Israel. Sketchy Bongo was here to bring peace and unity through his music.”

She said his performance attracted large crowds of students, who “danced with South African flags” and the “vibe was incredible”.

“People were having a great time until members of the PSC arrived and started heckling spectators, taking photographs, and spewing hate and intimidatory threats. The altercation was really divisive and unconstructive.”

Sketchy Bongo told the SA Jewish Report, “I was booked to play at a peace and love concert at Wits. It was supposed to bring people together, but it did the opposite. It was during Israel Apartheid Week. It was seen as me supporting Israeli policy, as the people that booked me brought down an Israeli soldier and other Israeli people. The set went well, but sparked a huge protest.

“I didn’t expect this as I thought it was something that was about peace and love, but it was clearly the group that booked me pushing a pro-Israeli policy which others did not agree with. After the set, I did my own research online as I was not completely aware of the details of the conflict.”

He claims he “came across” the Nation State Law, which prompted him to reconsider his actions.

“To me this is clearly a divisive law that encourages separation of people and does not promote love and understanding.”

The popular DJ insists he was not bullied into apologising.

“I was not under any pressure to apologise, nor was anyone aggressive towards me. The concert was not about unity. It was pushing a pro-Israeli policy agenda. I cannot support the Israel Nation State Law, nor be seen to support it.”

Stressing that, “I am not affiliated to or will be part of any organisation,” he said, “I am not in politics. I am about love, peace, and positive energy. I want my shows and music to be about that and nothing else. I will be doing much more research before accepting any shows in the future.”

It is understood that the PSC was angered by Araro’s presence at IAW, claiming she was a member of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). Araro describes herself on Twitter as, “#Israel, Ethiopian #Jew, #Zionist. #IDF Lieutenant in reserves. Writer. International Presenter. Interested in Government Diplomacy & Middle East conflict.”

As an Israeli citizen, she last served actively in the IDF in 2012, according to SAUJS this week. This was explained to Wits management.

Sketchy Bongo’s apology released a flurry of responses on Twitter representing both sides of the debate. He was praised and lauded by anti-Israel lobbyists for his “honesty”, “maturity”, and for “taking a stand”, and seemingly forgiven; while pro-Israel lobbyists expressed their disappointment at him for being so easily swayed by pressure and intimidation from the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement.

One Tweet by Aharon Chemel said, “Research on such a complicated topic doesn’t take one afternoon, really disappointing reaction. You did a concert promoting peace BTW, nothing to be ashamed of. Regardless of what side you on.”

Mordechai said, “#Israel is not an #Apartheid state. Your apology for performing is the result of bullying and hate speech for the @WitsPSC and others. Don’t give in to those who hate! Stand strong with love and unity.”

SAUJS’ Katzew told the SA Jewish Report that SAUJS would meet the artist to discuss the matter.

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