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Rhodes U responds to Jewish Report

Rhodes University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Saleem Badat has posted a lengthy response to a story published on SAJR Online earlier this month. 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.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

ANT KATZ

Last week Rhodes requested
that SAJR Online print their responding statement in full. A copy of the Rhodes
response is below.

  

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.

 

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Related reads & dozens of comments:

ANT INTERVIEW PODCAST – the day the Rhodes story broke SAJR’s online editor, Ant Katz, was interviewed on ChaiFM.

LARISSA’S TALE in which Ms Klazinga tells her own story of her two-year-long nightmare and ultimate saviour by members of the SA Jewish community.

RHODES PAYS DEARLY FOR ANTI-ZIONIST STAND was the SAJR’s story that blew the lid on Larissa’s episode and other goings-on at Rhodes – and the link between BDS, IAW and Rhodes.

CHARGE SHEET PDF – has 15 charges (7 relate to religion or religious politics) & 18 further ‘points of discussion’ of which 9 relate to Israel. The term ‘Israel’ is expressed 10 times on the charge sheet.

OUTRAGE OVER ‘HOMOPHOBIA’ POSTERS published in the Mail & Guardian on 31 May when Rhodes threatened to disband their internal “Fairness Forum” for not agreeing that pro-Israel posters were racist.

REPUBLICATION OF APRIL STORY that brought matters to a head – the republication was read over 4,000 times in five days with an average read time of just over six minutes.

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The Rhodes Response

 

A Response to the South African Jewish Report and
Ms Klazinga on ‘Jews unwelcome at Rhodes’

 

Introduction

 

On 1 January 2014, the South African Jewish Report and Ms Larissa Klazinga made a number of unfounded claims and unsubstantiated allegations against Rhodes University. Based on hysteria, lies and inaccuracies, the central claim made is that Rhodes University is hostile to Jews and seeks to be rid of Jews. We reject with contempt these baseless and self-serving claims and allegations of the South African Jewish Report and Klazinga.

 

The South African Jewish Report’s rant

 

The South African Jewish Report article bears no resemblance to any standard of journalism, for there is no interest in truth and accuracy and its practices are a far cry from the tenets of quality journalism. Bordering on the hysterical, the article trots out claims and allegations which are not backed up by facts or any empirical evidence. Indeed, truth, facts and evidence are casualties in a self-serving narrative in pursuit of a particular political agenda!

 

The University gives no credence whatsoever to the allegations of anti-Jewish conduct. However, we cannot ignore the lies, inaccuracies and misrepresentations and the deliberate and calculated action on the part of the South African Jewish Report and Klazinga to portray the University as hostile to Jews. Communication between supporters of the South African Jewish Report that we received last year made clear that there would be concerted action against anyone that dared to criticise Israel or was seen to be harbouring individuals and groups critical of Israel.

 

There is little point in refuting, line by line, the many falsehoods contained in the South African Jewish Report and so we will deal with only those issues that are pertinent and important.

 

The Rhodes reality

 

In reality Rhodes University is a far cry from the institution that the South African Jewish Report and Klazinga set out to portray.

 

It is widely acknowledged to be one of South Africa’s outstanding universities with an enviable reputation for the quality of its teaching and learning and graduates and its research and scholarship.

 

Rhodes is committed to an institutional culture that respects and promotes equity, human dignity and human rights, embraces difference and diversity and is comfortable for all people irrespective of ‘race’, gender, language, culture, nationality, sexual orientation and religion. It takes as its point of departure the 1996 South African Constitution which proclaims the values of “human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms”, and “non-racialism and non-sexism”. It is mindful that the Bill of Rights states unambiguously that institutions and individuals “may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth”. It takes seriously that we are enjoined to “respect, protect, promote and fulfill the rights in the Bill of Rights”.

 

For these and other important historical reasons much attention has been given to ensuring that Rhodes becomes a Home for All. As part of building a Home for All and an inclusive institutional culture, the Vice-Chancellor has consistently articulated certain messages – evidence of which can be found on the Rhodes website. The VC has regularly drawn attention to the rich diversity that exists at Rhodes and stressed the importance of respecting this diversity, and for embracing it as an exciting fountain of intellectual and institutional vitality and strength. His annual welcome of new students makes absolutely clear that

 

at Rhodes University there are no first class and second class students and people; and that at this University there is no accommodation and no tolerance of racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or any other kind of chauvinistic behaviour. Your so-called ‘race,’ sex, gender, nationality, religion, first language, previous school, the suburb you come from, the make and model of your car, the size of your monthly allowance, and the political position, status and wealth of your parents confer on you no special rights or privileges. At Rhodes, everyone is treated equally and equitably. Everyone at Rhodes – other students, academics, technicians, secretaries, wardens, cooks, cleaners and garden staff – everyone deserves respect and must be accorded dignity. Rhodes University belongs to all and is a home for all! We must work together with sensitivity, honesty and courage to be a model for our society; we must be what we want our beloved country to become.

 

As a way of building an appreciation for difference and diversity and an inclusive culture, on significant religious and cultural occasions, such as Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, the Vice-Chancellor’s Office issues a message of good wishes to those who observe such events. An open email is sent to all staff as there are no specific lists at Rhodes of Muslims, Hindus, Jews and the like. It is important to emphasize this point, to rebut the false claim that Rhodes is hostile to Jews. The simple fact is that Rhodes does not know who is Jewish nor does it seek to identify its diverse community by reference to any particular religious or cultural practice.

 

Many examples can be provided, including of all the structures, policies and processes that have been specifically developed by the University to deal with the apartheid legacy, combat racism and other kinds of discrimination within the institution, and provide a platform and forum for recourse to those persons who may be affected by incidences of actual or perceived discrimination of one kind or another.

 

Significantly despite the fact that Rhodes has a community of about 9 000 staff and students,  there was just one reported case of racism in 2011; in 2012 three reported cases of racism and two cases of xenophobia; and last year two cases of racism and one case of xenophobia. All of these complaints were investigated and referred to mediation where appropriate by the university prosecutors; and finalized.

 All complaints were investigated or at least referred to mediation by the university prosecutors; and all cases were finalized.

 

The fact is that Rhodes University is a very different place from the one that the South African Jewish Report and Klazinga claim, as part of their rather obvious political agenda.

 

Rehashing of the South African Jewish Report rant of April 2013

 

Klazinga simply repeats, and seeks to bolster through her alleged experiences, the South African Jewish Report’s rants of April 2013 that there was a hostile environment for Jews at Rhodes. Regrettably for it these claims gained no traction. It had dramatically claimed that “a startling picture of anti-Israel bias and outright racism towards Jewish staff and students at Rhodes emerged in a report after a six-person Jewish leadership delegation went to Grahamstown in April to investigate complaints from the campus”.

 

On 14 May 2103, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of the University informing him that a SAJBD “fact finding mission” to “investigate allegations of anti-Israel (sic) bias and intimidation at Rhodes that had come to our attention” and to “establish the relevant facts on the ground.” The SAJBD indicated that they wished to “discuss issues of concern to our community as well as to clear up a most unfortunate situation that has arisen recently on an independent website, which has made some disparaging remarks about Rhodes University without any agreement from our organisation, the representative body of SA Jewry.”

 

It should be noted that the SAJBD delegation that visited Grahamstown, inexplicably did not meet with the leadership of Rhodes – ‘fact finding’ was conducted without any opportunity for the University to engage with allegations, and so failed to respect a fundamental convention of the law – namely, the audi alteram partem requirement – which would have allowed the University to provide its side of the story.   

 

The University responded on 3 June 2013 indicating that it was willing to meet the SAJBD and invited it to provide the University with a copy of their fact finding report. The University expressed the hope that the report would provide factual evidence of the nature, form and extent of “anti-Israel bias and intimidation at Rhodes”, and indicate whether or not those who allege such “bias and intimidation” had raised this with the University authorities and with what outcomes.

 

On 18 June 2013, the University repeated its willingness to meet. To date, we have not had the courtesy of a response from the SAJBD.

 

To date, no facts or evidence or report have been forthcoming from the SAJBD and thus no meeting could be held.

 

The South African Human Rights Commission

 

Rhodes University has nothing to hide and is confident of its track record with respect to its promotion of human rights and human dignity.

 

The Vice-Chancellor will be proposing to the Senate and Council of the University that the South African Human Rights Commission should be invited to investigate the claims and allegations that Rhodes is hostile to Jews, that Jews are not welcome at Rhodes and that there is an institutional conspiracy to get rid of Jews. Jewish students and staff who claim that their human rights have been violated at Rhodes will be invited to place their allegations before the Human Rights Commission.

 

The case of Klazinga

 

In so far as Klazinga is concerned, we do not wish to dignify her own or the South African Jewish Report’s puerile and self-serving claims.

 

Tempting as it is, and unlike the South African Jewish Report which has no ethical reservations about making scandalous claims, we will make no comment on Klazinga’s character and conduct at Rhodes.

It is a matter of fact that Ms Larissa Klazinga departed from Rhodes at the end of 2013 on the basis of a confidential settlement. The suggestion that  her departure had anything to do with her being Jewish or because of an anti-Jewish institutional ethos is utterly devoid of truth and political grandstanding on her part in the service of a particular political cause of which she is a known supporter.

 

Suffice to say that like everyone else, she enjoyed great latitude at Rhodes, as befitting a university, to hold views and opinions and express herself freely on issues. The political affiliations of staff are considered to be a personal matter, and respected as such by Rhodes. Academics understand Max Weber’s distinction between science as a vocation and politics as a vocation, and the responsibilities that are associated with being an academic. She was hardly exempt from the need to maintain a judicious boundary between her personal political affiliations and her work and conducting herself in a manner that inspired the confidence of a diverse student body and various constituencies and actors at Rhodes.

 

It was not surprising that the Dean of Students, as her line manager, sought to institute disciplinary proceedings against her for her inappropriate conduct and transgressions. The South African Jewish Report and Klazinga seek to portray the move to institute disciplinary proceedings against her as having to do with her being Jewish or pro-Israeli; the simple fact is that it was her conduct in her work position that was the issue.

 

It is important to note that in the discourse of the South African Jewish Report and Klazinga, there is a consistent deliberate conflation of Zionist, Semitic, Israeli and Jewish. Thus, any criticism of Israel and its actions are ridiculously branded as anti-Jewish.  This is, of course, absurd to the extreme. It is not dissimilar to those who were anti-apartheid or anti-apartheid state being labelled anti-white.

 

Specific allegations

 

As indicated, there is no value in responding to each and every allegation made against this University since many of these are simply ludicrous assertions without any foundation. Two claims though do deserve a response.

 

  1. “Larissa Klazinga’s story is about an almost two-year-long saga that speaks to the anti-Israeli culture that pervades the hallowed halls of Rhodes University”.

     

    The reference to a ‘culture’ is fictional. Of course there is debate on Israel at Rhodes as there is on many issues and there are contending and different positions amongst academics and students who may hold different views. Respectful intellectual clash of ideas and debate is the lifeblood of a university. Guided by the principles of academic freedom, freedom of expression and within the bounds of the South African Constitution and Bill of Rights, Rhodes University will continue to protect and promote debate of all kinds.

     

  2. “Its been a great victory, said Bags who represented Larissa together with advocate Izak Smuts SC.The University had raised a laundry list of disciplinary charges, but says Bags, all of them came to naught”…. “The litigation was 100% successful”.

 

Here one has to recall Amilcar Cabral’s dictum: ‘Tell no lies, claim no easy victories’.

 

The Dean of Students sought to sanction Klazinga on good disciplinary grounds. The charge sheet was prepared by the Human Resources Division and the Office of the Dean of Students, assisted by attorneys.

 

When the Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Mabizela and Director of Special Projects had sight of the charge sheet, they were deeply anguished by and raised a principled objection to two specific charges – namely, charge 6, “You have behaved in a sexually provocative manner in public” and Charge 8, “You have failed to ensure that your position at the University should be one of neutrality as far as political issues are concerned”.

 

Their view was that those specific charges were gratuitous and antithetical to the kind of culture that the University was seeking to create. The charges were then withdrawn in their totality. This was communicated to Klazinga and an apology was tendered for the inclusion of charges 6 and 8.

Subsequently, the Director of Special Projects was requested by the Vice-Chancellor to produce terms of reference to investigate how such gratuitous charges were permitted to be tabled and to extend such an investigation to a sample of other disciplinary cases. The concern is, of course, one of institutional culture and equitable treatment. This investigation will be concluded in mid-2014.

 

There was no litigation and the disciplinary charges were never tested and so the claims of the South African Jewish Report and the attorney they quote are hollow. The sad reality was that the breakdown of relations between Klazinga, the Dean of Students and Deputy Dean of Students had unfortunately entered the realm of personal antagonism. Klazinga was requested to work through the Director of Special Projects and during this time undertook support work for the Office of the Vice-Chancellor. Subsequently, in liaison with the Director of Special Projects, she chose, of her own free volition, to negotiate an exit settlement with the University.

 

We wish to reiterate that Rhodes is committed to an institutional culture that respects and promotes equity, human dignity and human rights, embraces difference and diversity and is comfortable for all people irrespective of ‘race’, gender, language, culture, nationality, sexual orientation and religion.

 

Rhodes welcomes all and will continue to strive to be a Home for All.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Formatting, bold and itallic type and subheadings
as per Rhodes’ original statement published on their intranet.

 

 

 

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Related reads & dozens of comments:

ANT INTERVIEW PODCAST – the day the Rhodes story broke SAJR’s online editor, Ant Katz, was interviewed on ChaiFM.

LARISSA’S TALE in which Ms Klazinga tells her own story of her two-year-long nightmare and ultimate saviour by members of the SA Jewish community.

RHODES PAYS DEARLY FOR ANTI-ZIONIST STAND was the SAJR’s story that blew the lid on Larissa’s episode and other goings-on at Rhodes – and the link between BDS, IAW and Rhodes.

CHARGE SHEET PDF – has 15 charges (7 relate to religion or religious politics) & 18 further ‘points of discussion’ of which 9 relate to Israel. The term ‘Israel’ is expressed 10 times on the charge sheet.

OUTRAGE OVER ‘HOMOPHOBIA’ POSTERS published in the Mail & Guardian on 31 May when Rhodes threatened to disband their internal “Fairness Forum” for not agreeing that pro-Israel posters were racist.

REPUBLICATION OF APRIL STORY that brought matters to a head – the republication was read over 4,000 times in five days with an average read time of just over six minutes.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Gary Selikow

    Jan 29, 2014 at 9:04 am

    ‘Quite predictably Saleem Badat says we are ‘conflating’ anti-Israel hatred with anti-Semitism.

    It dooesnt need to be conflated because being prejudiced against Israel and Israelis is as bigoted as being prejudiced against Jews per se

    The violent disruption of the concert of Yossi Reshef;’s concert at wits just because he was born in Israeli is pure racism

    Anti-Semitism is hostility to Jews anywhere. Hence the anti-Zionist cannot claim he is not an anti-Semite because he \”only\” hates Jews in Israel any more than someone can make the claim that they are not a racist because they only hate Blacks who live in South Africa.   The enemies of Israel want the physical elimination of the Jewish people from the Land of Israel. This constitutes anti-Semitism. The point is that they want a Judenreihn \”Palestine\” the same way that Hitler wanted a Judenreihn Europe. The anti-Zionists claim that they are not anti-Semites but that think the only country on the earth that must be annihilated is Israel. The anti-Zionists claim that they are not anti-Semites but that the only children on earth whose being blown up is okay if it serves a good cause are Jewish children. The anti-Zionists believe that the only conflict that must be resolved by total dismemberment of one of the parties is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Dismembering Israel into a single Arab dominated state means a second holocaust.  It means methodical massacre of millions of Jews , of hundreds of thousands of Jewish children. Furthermore to say one is anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic is saying one only hates Jews who live in Israel. This is absurd as saying one is not a racist as one only hates Blacks who live in South Africa, but has many African American friends. Anyone who pushes for this ‘1 state solution’ is actually pushing for a second holocaust.  Denying a nation’s right to exist is genocidal racism, akin to Nazism, hence in my opinion , anti-Zionism is Nazism.  Judea Pearl a professor of computer science at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation correctly reminds us that \”As a form of racism, anti-Zionism is worse than anti-Semitism. It targets the most vulnerable part of the Jewish people, namely, the people of Israel, who rely on the sovereignty of their state for physical safety, national identity and personal dignity. To put it more bluntly, anti-Zionism condemns 5 million human beings, mostly refugees or children of refugees, to eternal statelessness, traumatized by historical images of persecution and genocide\”. Only the hard-hearted, hate-filled and cowardly will deny Israel the right to exist and defend herself Anti-Zionism is racism , as it involves hatred of an entire people i.e the Jews of Israel. I believe anti-Zionism ,is in fact , far more contemptible that traditional anti-Semitism. The new anti-Semitism is cloaked in the language of political correctness and academic language, but the end goal is the same, genocide of Jews. On university campuses, in the media, in the halls of the United Nations, and in Third World governments (like the government of SA) , prejudice runs strong. The leaders of today’s Nuremberg rallies are supposedly ‘enlightened’ and ‘progressive’ Left-wing academics, as Israel is pilloried, without the slightest compassion for the men, women and children of that tiny country. On the contrary, it is condemned by a coterie of malignant narcissists for destruction.  It is a dangerous mistake to leave anti-Israel hatred out of the equation when monitoring anti-Semitism in South Africa or any other country It is fashionable on the intellectual left to call for a one state solution. i.e for a ‘unitary’ Arab dominated ‘Palestine’ to replace Israel, in which Jews would be a helpless minority at the mercy and whim of HAMAS , as the Jews in Europe and the Arab countries (from which 800 000 Jews where expelled in 1948.) were at the mercy of their persecutors. If these demand became a reality, Jews would wait, huddled in their ghettos, to be massacred by the Arabs. Those call for Israel’s replacement by a ‘unitary Palestine’ know full well that this would lead to a second Holocaust of Israel’s five million Jews.  

  2. SHULA

    Jan 31, 2014 at 8:29 am

    ‘I don.’t believe a word of what Dr Badat says’

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Disparaging image contributes to stigma about weight

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The article by Mirah Langer, “How COVID-19 lockdown turned eating upside down”, SA Jewish Report, 29 April, was well written, highlighting how people are struggling to maintain a healthy relationship with food and their bodies since the lockdown.

Unfortunately, the original online and print versions were accompanied by an awful image – one that perpetuates weight bias and weight stigma. I was relieved to see that the online image had already been changed by Friday, 30 April, however, the awful image made it to print.

I’m therefore writing this letter to educate those working in media and healthcare about the dangers of using images that depict people in larger bodies in a disparaging way as it contributes to weight bias and stigma. Weight bias is defined as negative, prejudiced attitudes about weight, with overt manifestations of weight stigma and discrimination.

Unfortunately, weight bias and stigma have a psychological and physical impact on health, contributing directly to anxiety, depression, disordered eating behaviours, high blood pressure, high cortisol levels, and systemic inflammation. To the person responsible for changing the image online so quickly, thank you for a job well done! – Gayle Landau, Registered non-diet dietician and certified intuitive eating counsellor, and member of Non-Diet South Africa for healthcare professionals

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Looking for descendants of Lithuanian great-grandfather

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I would be grateful for any information a reader may have as I search for descendants of my great-grandfather, Eliahu Zvi Bloch, a Kohen who lived in Anassisic/Anusshishok, Lithuania, near the Latvian border, from roughly 1820 to 1900.

My grandfather, Elchanon, the son of Eliahu Zvi and his third wife, Sarah Oralowich, who grew up in an orphanage, is the only one of the family who emigrated to the United States. I recall hearing that some of Elchanon’s siblings or half-siblings emigrated to South Africa in the first half of the last century.

I know very little else. I believe the family migrated to Lithuania from Germany around 1750 or 1800, that Eliahu Zvi’s father lived to be 100, and that Eliahu Zvi was 66 years old when my grandfather was born. It’s possible that some family members migrated to Israel, either prior to statehood or after living in South Africa. I would welcome any information, even if marginally related to my family, such as knowledge of life in Anassisic/Anusshishok. I live in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, and can be reached at farrellbloch@aol.com

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Only those on the frontline should be vaccinated

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I read in dismay of doctors, often in private practice who never see a COVID-19-positive patient, who are rushing off with their wives and administration clerks to get to the front of the queue to be vaccinated. I see psychologists and other allied professionals flaunting the fact that they have been vaccinated or elbowing their way to the vaccine table.

While this happens, nearly a million health workers in the public sector who are actually dealing with COVID-19-positive patients in surgery, anaesthetics, intensive-care units, and emergency departments, treating patients with hands-on care, haven’t yet received their vaccinations. These are the frontline workers who are at risk. These are the doctors, nurses, and allied professionals who are dying. They aren’t there for the glory or the large salary but because they are committed to making a difference, to healing, and to contributing to a better world. I urge all of you who aren’t dealing directly with patients who breathe, cough, or spit at you, who can treat patients while maintaining a social distance and wearing masks, not to rush to the front of the queue. Leave the limited supply of vaccines for the real frontline workers. Everyone will get a vaccine. You may have to wait a few more months, but in the meantime, you can take precautions and be safe.

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