‘UCT no longer safe for us’ – SAUJS leader
“I’m writing to you as a hurt, terrified, and angry Jewish student,” South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) Western Cape Chairperson Erin Dodo told the authorities at the University of Cape Town (UCT) on 19 October.
“On 7 October 2023, my people experienced the worst genocide since the Holocaust. Twelve days later, this university remains silent,” wrote Dodo. “Two days ago, the UCT Palestinian Solidarity Forum [UCT PSF] hung up Hezbollah and Hamas flags. Two days ago, I and three other Jewish students tried to hang up posters of people kidnapped by Hamas. We were met with verbal abuse, slander, and vilification. Thirty people screaming at us, all while Campus Protection Service (CPS) guards did nothing.
“Yesterday, an older man, whom I can only assume is a lecturer, tore down posters of kidnapped people. Yet we must remain calm. We must be okay with a Hamas flag being flown, the very terrorist organisation murdering our families,” she said. She noted that the posters had been approved by the student representative council and stamped by it.
The UCT PSF stated its support for terrorism throughout 2023, even inviting terrorist leaders to address students on campus. “We’re tired of your silence,” Dodo told UCT in the letter. “Your inaction has caused anguish, anger, and devastation. Your Jewish students, whom you claim to care about, are being attacked. As the leadership of this university, it’s incumbent on you to protect all students. You have failed. This university is no longer a safe place for us. As chairperson of SAUJS Western Cape, I call on you to protect Jewish students on campus.”
In response to a request for comment from the SA Jewish Report, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said, “The university isn’t aware of any incident on campus in relation to recent developments in the Middle East which posed a safety threat, or was unlawful or in violation of UCT rules. UCT also wishes to state that events on campus in the past week [16 to 20 October 2023] have been monitored closely by the relevant departments.
“The university has noted correspondence by a student in relation to developments in the Middle East. UCT will investigate the allegations and engage with the student. Any member of the UCT community who feels their safety is threatened and needs any support should reach out to the relevant UCT offices to report any incident.”
Meanwhile, Dodo says SAUJS members put up 30 more posters on the evening of 22 October, and by the morning of 23 October, they had all been pulled down. Other posters were defaced with the words “Zionist propaganda”.
She says the only response to her letter from UCT so far is the CPS asking which area it was that she and others were harassed so it could check security footage.
Meanwhile, the UCT PSF continues to support terrorism, sharing the post of one follower, which stated, “Students of UCT: there’s no fence sitting in this war. You are either on the side of the axis of resistance comprising of Hamas and other Palestinian factions, Hezbollah, Yemen, Iraq, and Iran, or you are on the side of the Zionist terrorist regime. You are not truly supporting the Palestinian resistance if you condemn the actions of Hamas.”
The person who posted the message then shared a photo from a UCT PSF event earlier in the year, at which Hamas representative to Iran, Dr Khalid Qaddoumi, is clearly seen addressing students in a UCT lecture theatre with a Hezbollah flag draped over the podium.
Rowan Polovin, the national chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, says, “UCT continues to provide a platform for internationally-designated terrorist organisations to promulgate hate and propaganda. The UCT PSF continues to advocate extremist rhetoric. This behaviour has long-term consequences, some already visible today, following the removal of posters on campus.
“The weakness of UCT’s leadership and management, which refuses to prevent the ongoing and flagrant abuse of the campus by hate-traffickers is deplorable, and must be condemned in the strongest terms,” he said.
“The brutality unleashed during the Hamas massacre included horrifying acts, which the university should take into full consideration in its response to UCT PSF speakers in future,” says Polovin. “Innocent Israeli civilians were beheaded with blunt objects, massacred in bomb shelters, and lynched. Babies were burnt alive or shot point-blank. Innocent civilians were grotesquely mutilated while women’s naked bodies were paraded through the streets of Gaza like spoils of war. There should be no place for Hamas or Hezbollah on campus.”
Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (Cape Board) Executive Director Daniel Bloch said in a letter to university authorities, “We’ve explained why the displays of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad flags and video messages cause anguish and fear. We’ve implored UCT to take action in protecting not just Jewish students, but all students, and warned that something may happen on campus.
“The vice chancellor interim, Daya Reddy, responded promptly, stating that he had referred our email to the director for properties and services who has overall responsibility for campus security,” said Bloch. “The director mentioned that nothing official had been reported other than the email from the student. The director of risk services then responded, stating that UCT has a security plan in place.”
Bloch believes Jewish students should continue as normal. They should feel safe to walk on campus, he said, but encouraged students not to engage [with protesters].
“If any student wishes to report anything of an antisemitic nature, they can send voice notes, images, and comments to the Cape SAJBD antisemitism WhatsApp line: 079 994 5573. We’ve also recently launched the Cape SAJBD community wellness helpline: 079 875 3902. Students can also make contact with a SAUJS representative.”