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Pretoria University condemns religious intolerance



The University of Pretoria (UP or Tuks) this week condemned any form of religious and racist intolerance in the light of the antisemitic stand taken on 15 March by the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) on campus.

“The University of Pretoria condemns any form of discrimination, including racism and religious intolerance, and will take the necessary steps against anyone who is found to be in breach of its anti-discrimination policies,” said Tuks spokesperson Rikus Delport. “The university is committed to providing a safe space where all students, regardless of race, sexual orientation, and religious belief feel welcome.”

The university was the site of ugly anti-Jewish sentiment earlier this year, when student societies lashed out at the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) for daring to form a working relationship with the Student Representative Council (SRC). Societies like the PSC made it clear that Jewish students weren’t welcome to have any kind of presence on campus, and even staged an illegal “sit-in” protest to emphasise their view.

University authorities have been working in the background to assure SAUJS and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) that the safety and freedom of Jewish students remains a priority. The university re-emphasised its stance to the SA Jewish Report.

When the sit-in was staged in mid-March, the university promised the SAJBD that the students who took part would be disciplined. Now, Delport said, “The matter is with student discipline and with our transformation office, which is the champion of our anti-discrimination policy.”

In terms of ensuring that it doesn’t happen again, “appropriate action will be taken against anyone in breach of our policies”, he said. “If any student feels unsafe, they should report it to campus security or work through the available student leadership structures. We believe we have the necessary measures in place to provide a safe space to all our students, regardless of their religious beliefs.”

SAUJS Tuks Chairperson Sasha Said mentioned that since the sit-in, “there has been a significant improvement in the acceptance of Jewish students across campus. SAUJS remains committed to its beliefs and proud of its stand. A market day organised by SAUJS was a huge success, with a continuous flow of people eager to learn, engage, and support not only current Jewish students but future ones.

“Five more articles have been written in the Tuks newspaper regarding the situation,” she said. “However, unlike previous occasions, SAUJS has had the opportunity to respond. It’s not ideal, but SAUJS has grown stronger through this interaction. SAUJS has a strong and engaging relationship with the SRC, and we continue to raise funds for students in need.”

SAJBD National Director Wendy Kahn said, “We have been engaging with the University of Pretoria’s administration to ensure that there are consequences for students who violate the basic tenants of non-discrimination and inclusion on a university campus. Attempting to exclude students based on their religion from engaging with the SRC is a dangerous stance anywhere in society, but especially in a university environment. We applaud UP’s condemnation of this antisemitism, and welcome its assurance that action will be taken against the students responsible. It’s critical that an institution of higher learning upholds these values and principles.”

South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) director of public policy, Benji Shulman, said, “The SAZF welcomes the statement from the University of Pretoria condemning discrimination against Jewish students on campus.

“Institutions offering tertiary education in South Africa must never condone groups that undermine freedom of association and promote discrimination,” he said. “Places of learning must remain safe spaces for all those securing an education in our country.

“We hope that the University of Cape Town [UCT] will follow suit, and immediately launch an investigation against the UCT Palestinian Solidarity Forum for facilitating the distribution of messages from terrorist organisations on its campus last week [20 March], creating a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students and the potential for long term violent indoctrination.”

Cape SAJBD Executive Director Daniel Bloch said he was due to meet UCT management before Pesach to discuss the issue of speakers from terrorist organisations being allowed to address students on campus.

“Our message to the community is never to allow fear to prevent them from being themselves, taking pride in their beliefs, or standing up for what they believe in,” said Said. “SAUJS is committed to being a shining example of this. In spite of difficult moments over the past few months, the support from all community sectors has been overwhelmingly positive.

“As proud Jews and Zionists, SAUJS will stand on its three pillars of Zionism, Judaism, and South Africa,” she said. “We’ll continue to fight for inclusion and students’ rights on campus and to overcome discrimination in any form. The entire SAUJS team stands behind the community, and is always rooting for them. The community should be proud of who we are and what we stand for.”

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  1. Jessica

    Mar 30, 2023 at 8:09 pm

    Downplaying as “racism and religious intolerance” a toxic form of on-campus radicalism – which is moreover firmly embedded in a murderous antisemitic ideology – is typical of this so-called university’s subjection to wokery.

  2. Varnu Govender

    Mar 31, 2023 at 11:06 am

    As a Palestinian activist and member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), I would like to provide a different perspective on the events that transpired at the University of Pretoria.

    Firstly, it is essential to clarify that the sit-in protest organized by the PSC was carried out in a peaceful manner, adhering to all relevant rules and regulations. Our intention was to draw attention to the partnership between the Student Representative Council (SRC) and Zionist organizations, which we believe contradicts the SRC’s anti-partisan policies and the stances made previously with regards to this. We stand for justice, human rights, and the end of the occupation in Palestine, and we believe that any collaboration with organizations that support the Israeli occupation goes against the principles of justice and equality.

    It is also important to mention that on the same day as the sit-in, the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) invited an IDF soldier onto the university campus, an action which was not reported in the initial article. We feel this incident should have been included to provide a balanced and comprehensive overview of the events on that day.

    We understand that the University of Pretoria has taken a stand against religious and racial intolerance, and we commend their commitment to creating a safe and inclusive environment for all students. However, we also believe that it is crucial for the university to be aware of the complexities of the Israel-Palestine conflict and to ensure that all voices are represented fairly.

    As activists, our objective is to promote peace, justice, and dialogue. We do not condone or promote any form of discrimination or intolerance, and we believe that all students should have the right to express their opinions and beliefs in a safe and respectful manner. We hope that the University of Pretoria and other institutions will continue to uphold these values and engage in open and honest discussions surrounding the issues at hand.

    We look forward to working with the university administration, the SRC, and other student organizations in fostering an environment where all perspectives are acknowledged, and constructive conversations can take place to address the concerns of all parties involved.

  3. Jessica

    Apr 6, 2023 at 10:25 am

    Can you please elaborate on the partnership between the Tuks Student Representative Council (SRC) and Zionist organizations? It would be much appreciated.

  4. Reb Yid

    Apr 14, 2023 at 4:53 am

    Jews support Israel. Deal with it. If you say that Jews are only allowed on campus if they don’t support Israel, you’re basically saying “no Jews allowed,” which is illegal.

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