Visiting Israeli students soon realised it was not just the weather that was chilly this week, but also the reception from a coalition of students.
Witsies from various students groups including the Palestinian Solidarity Commitee (PSC) and South African Student Congress (SASCO) staged a silent protest at the Israeli public relations point on the Lawns.
The group of almost 20 youth says they are here to engage with students of South Africa and change the negative stereotypes about Isreal. One of the students, Ben Ofer, said “we here to promote dialogue and to give our side of the stories”
However Robert Freeman, PSC member said their aim was not to engage with the Israelis who are not just students but who have served in the Defence Force and who have boasted of being part of the Gaza Offensive in 2009 but to boycott them.
According to a letter of support from an Israeli group, BOYCOTT, they describe the delegation as “part of a well orchestrated Israeli establishment’s attempt to whitewash severe violations of human rights, through a fictitious display of ‘diversity and democracy’”.
Students dressed in red t-shirts, branding the faces and biographies of the Israeli delegation, walked through campus, handing out leaflets calling for students to boycott the Jewish students.
A flash mob also took place at the Lawn, where students ran into the tents at a signal and engaged in a silent protest, before falling to the ground and lying down to symbolise the dead Palestinians.
South African Union of Jewish Student (SAUJS), Stephanie Hodes, said “ the protest was sad, they should rather come inside and eat falafel.”
The students also staged a “walk – out” at a panel discussion held by the delegation at John Moffet, on Monday afternoon.
According to Mo desai, their campaign was a success, and with each round of protest their numbers grew.
Protest began from the time the delegation landed at Oliver Tambo International Airport. The students were forced to leave from back exit and the host had to cancel the welcoming events.
Another Israeli student, Shirley kaufman said she was taken aback by the protestors at the airport. “I felt unwelcome and it was the first time I had landed in such a wierd way.”
The students had visited University of Johannesburg this week and are due to visit various other campuses around South Africa. Anti Israeli campaigns have also planned counter protest.