Calls to expel Israeli ambassador from South Africa

The ANC (African National Congress), its alliance members, Cosatu and the SACP (South African Communist Party), and pro-Palestinian organisations held a press conference at Cosatu House earlier today, denouncing the Israeli government for denying Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation visas to enter Palestine.  


PRO-PALESTINE ALLIANCE: Members of COSATU, SACP, BDSSA, YCL, and SAUS, amongst others at Cosatu House announcing their plans to boycott Israel earlier today. Photo: Zimasa Mpemnyama

Various African National Congress-aligned and pro-Palestinian organisations vowed today that they would force the South African government to expel the Israeli ambassador, amongst other demands.

The demands, in response to Israel’s refusal to grant a visa to Minister Blade Nzimande and his delegation to travel to Palestine, were announced at a press conference held this afternoon at Cosatu House.

Organisations present at the press conference included the South African Communist Party (SACP), Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), Young Communist League (YCL), South African Students Congress (SASCO), the South African Union of Students (SAUS), and members of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDSSA), amongst others.

The organisations said they believed that Nzimande, the minister of Higher Education and Training, was denied access to Palestine because of Israel’s “apartheid” laws.

“The embassy of Israel must go.”

The acting National Spokesperson of Cosatu, Norman Mampane, said Blade Nzimande’s stance against Isreal should not be viewed as his individual views, but rather as ANC policy, adopted by the ANC National Executive Committee.

Government given an ultimatum

Mampane highlighted an action plan that included requesting the ANC government to impose bans on Israeli nationals travelling to South Africa, holding a national meeting with Student Representative Councils (SRCs), from universities around the country to discuss an academic boycott of Israel, and calling for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, Arthur Lenk, from South Africa within 10 days.

“It’s clear that they [Israel] don’t want to talk … so in ten days if the embassy is not closed, we will go and close it ourselves,” said Matome Chiloane, Chairman of the Gauteng ANCYL.

Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu Deputy General Secretary said that they are not surprised by the Israeli government’s decision to deny Minister Nzimande a visa, because the “Israeli government has been consistent in denying Palestinian people their freedom”.

“The embassy of Israel must go,” Ntshalintshali said.

Nzimande was invited to Palestine to discuss and participate in the launch of the Centre for African Studies at a Palestinian university. Nzimande did not attend the press conference.

SA professor speaks outside French university after ban

A University of Johannesburg professor addressed an audience outside the gates of a French university after he was banned from speaking at the institution yesterday.

Despite being banned from speaking at the Pantheon-Sorbonne University in France yesterday, Professor Farid Esack still managed to deliver a lecture on “Israel as an Apartheid State” at the main gates of the institution.

Esack is a professor in the Study of Islam, and Head of the Department of Religion Studies at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and also chairs the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa board. He was due to speak at the public research university in Paris as part of the Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) but was not able to after complaints were received by the institution.

“A pretty sad sight for France which turned out in their hundreds of thousands to defend ‘freedom of speech’ only a few months ago,” said Esack.

“The major allegations was that I was violent and anti-Semitic. The basis for this?”

“The major allegations was that I was violent and anti-Semitic. The basis for this?” asks Esack

According to Esack, allegations of violence against BDS supporters during the Boycott Woolworths campaign were ascribed to him as the chair of the organisation. “This was the sum of the Israeli lobby’s petition to French universities,” Esack continues.

Esack also addressed allegations that he is anti-Semitic by saying, “believe it or not, it all started with Dubula-i-Juda story that was first printed in Vuvuzela!” he exclaims.

According to Esack, BDS South Africa’s (through coordinator Mohammed Desai), attempts to explain the Wits incident “in the context of larger liberation struggle songs was presented as proof that I am anti-Semitic.”

“The BDS Board, which I chair and of which Desai is a member as the organization’s director, concurred with, unambiguously condemned that incident and BDS reaffirms its commitment to non-violence as its way of responding to the crimes of occupation and dispossession committed against the Palestinian people.”


Q&A with Bassem Eid

Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Photo: Provided

Bassem Eid, founder of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. Photo: Provided

Palestinian journalist Bassem Eid is the founder and former director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies brought him out to speak about his work at various universities around the country during Israel Apartheid Week (IAW). This is his fourth time in South Africa.

What is your background?
I grew up in a camp in the Old City in Jerusalem. We were evacuated for no reason, one year before the 1967 war. I worked for B’Tselem [The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories] from the start of the first intifada [uprising], but I resigned because I was more interested in monitoring the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) violations of their own peoples’ rights.

What kind of work did you do there?
We released reports, six times a year that looked at the violations and atrocities committed by the PA, under the Yasser Arafat regime.

Did you feel this was more important to focus on than what the Israeli Defence Force was doing?
Yes, because it is more painful to commit these atrocities against their own people. For me, it became about defending Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. For them, the PA became another kind of occupation, and because of their corruption, these people have been left hopeless.

What is the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
There is no solution right now. The major problem right now is the lack of leadership on both sides. They will both have to wait for the coming generation. The right-wing Israeli government and the old faction of leaders on the Palestinian side.

Is Israel an apartheid state?
No, it isn’t. South African apartheid has never existed in Israel. Palestinians can study and receive medical care, which are the two most important rights.

What do you think about IAW?
It adds more hate to existing hate. South Africa has a propagandist notion towards the conflict. The money that is thrown at IAW should be used for South Africans who need it in the fight against poverty. BDS (Boycott, Divestement and Sanctions) is a prelude to genocide and the destruction of the Palestinian people. They have no idea what’s going on, they’re just adding more fuel to the flame.


Wits Vuvuzela, IAW [VIDEO]: Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 wraps up, March 18, 2014

Wits Vuvuzela, Israel apartheid concert round two, August 23, 2013

Wits Vuvuzela, Israel vs SRC, May 31, 2013


BDS protests outside Joburg High Court


A supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign stands in solidarity with the protest outside High Court earlier today. Photo: Luca Kotton


By Roxanne Joseph and Luca Kotton

Supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign protested outside the Johannesburg High Court today where a case about the removal of Palestine solidarity billboards was to be heard.

The BDS movement, who are suing Continental Outdoor Media for the removal of Palestine solidarity billboards in 2012, staged a protest outside the court despite a postponement of the matter to later in the week.

The organisation is represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) and is arguing that the removal of the billboards goes against the principle of Freedom of Expression, according to BDS South Africa coordinator Muhammad Desai.

Desai says BDS are very confident they will win the case as this is a “contractual” and “constitutional” issue.

“The facts are very clear, in which Continental Media has succumb to the pressure. Unfortunately for Continental Media the Israeli lobby went very quickly to the media to take down the billboards. We don’t see any sign of the Israeli lobby now,” Desai said.


Supporters of the BDS movement, including the ANC Youth League and Cosatu, protested outside High Court earlier today. Photo: Luca Kotton

He added, “We are here to send a very clear message … playing around with freedom of speech and freedom of expression will not be taken lightly. We fought very hard for these freedoms.”

The billboards depicted the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land through a series of maps titled “Palestinian Loss of Land- 1946 to 2010.”

The matter was not heard in court today as the LRC believes the time allocated to the case is too little.

“We need more than four hours for the matter to be heard, it’s quite a complex matter. So we’re waiting for a time later in the week when more than four hours can be allocated for us,” according to Naseema Fakir, regional director of the LRC.

WITH VIDEO & AUDIO: Habib calls anti-semitic song ‘irresponsible’

by Nokuthula Manyathi and Emelia Motsai

Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib said that it was “outrageous” that some protestors chanted and sang “dubula i-Juda” (shoot the Jew), at a protest against an Israeli musician on campus this week.

“It is irresponsible when anyone propagates the murder of another on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity,” said Habib.

The protest in response to the concert of Daniel Zamir was held in the Wits University Great Hall but another group of protesters went to a corridor inside the Central Block building and protested from there. This is the same group that sang the song.



The coordinator of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), Muhammed Desai, said many African people in South Africa when using the word “Jews” meant it in the same way they would have during the eighties. “Just like you would say kill the Boer at funeral during the eighties it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime”.



Members of the Academic Staff Association of Wits University and the group Academic Freedom were present as independent observers at the protest. Kezia Lewins who was part of the observers said the protest had been relatively peaceful but a full report would be made available at a later stage. Members of the Legal Resources Centre were also there to provide legal advice to the protesters and to observe as well.


SAJBD: BDS is just desperate

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) today denied that the concert that will be held at Wits is for Jews only.

President of SAJBD Zev Krengel said in a letter to Wits Vuvuzela that the claims, are a “desperate last-ditch tactic to discredit” the Daniel Zamir concert that will be held at Wits on August 28. Krengel did not deny the validity of the recordings but said they were a “response by an independent contractor engaged to sell tickets, who had simply misunderstood what the brief was.”

On Monday Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) released two recordings which they say is “proof of ethnic racism and profiling practiced” by some of the organisers of the concert.

A poster advertising the Daniel Zamir concert at Wits University. Image:

A poster advertising the Daniel Zamir concert at Wits University. Image:

The recordings involve two people whom BDS allege are the “organisers” of the concert, saying there were measures taken to make the concert a “Jewish only” one. According to the recordings the organisers also bought out all the tickets.  This is apparently to conduct background checks on those who tried to buy tickets.

“Those making these accusations are the self-same activists whose members were responsible for the disgraceful break-up of a piano recital by an Israeli musician on the same campus earlier this year,” said Krengel.

He was referring to the concert by an Israeli musician that was “disrupted” in March. Eleven Wits student who were part of the protest at that concert were later charged by Wits for “possible contravention of the university’s codes of conduct”.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Bullying tactics of those who do not scruple to undermine those freedoms in order to push their own radical political agendas.” [/pullquote]

A Wits PhD student, Serge Tshibangu, said the allegations made by BDS were false because he had ordered a ticket and had received confirmation of the order, even though he is “African”: I totally disagree that it is a racist concert.”

Tshibangu said he ordered his tickets on Monday.  He had to give his full names and identification number to buy the ticket but he understood it was so his ID number could be checked by Campus Control officers when he arrived at the concert.

Krengel said he “applauded Wits University for upholding the democratic values and freedoms that have made it so fine an academic institution and for its forthright rejection of the intimidatory, bullying tactics of those who do not scruple to undermine those freedoms in order to push their own radical political agendas.”

BDS has said it would protest outside the event.

Israeli Apartheid week to face opposition

This year’s eighth international Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is set to face some opposition in the face of an Israeli envoy.

Israel’s Public Diplomacy Ministry is set to send an envoy of Israelis to represent the state against the apartheid label said an article published in the Jerusalem Post, on February 19.

But Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa condemned it in a press release, saying it was an attempt to undermine the upcoming IAW running from March 5 until March 9.

Rebecca Luton, Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee’s (PSC) chairperson, says, “It’s a reflection that Israel is taking the charge of being an apartheid regime seriously. Unfortunately it’s responding by dispatching envoys to justify that classification rather than try to end apartheid in Israel.”

The ministry is planning to send 100 trained Israelis from different sectors in society to different college campuses around the world where IAW will take place. The mission, titled “Faces of Israel” will be split into 20 groups that will participate in conferences and panels, and speak directly to college students, in Johannesburg, Cape Town, New York, Boston, Los Angeles and other cities.

Boaz Valkin from the South African Union of Jewish Students says he has limited knowledge of the delegation.

“They should be given the opportunity to be heard as dialogue, engagement and open honest discussion is the only way to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

Despite this, Luton says 2012’s IAW is said to be the biggest it has ever been with a “nationwide buzz two weeks before it is even meant to start.”

“We not only expect a bigger turnout for events and activities but also a far more active involvement by ordinary students.

This is partly because of the great IAW line-up but also because students are far more conscientised around the issue with more and more organizations adopting BDS of Israel resolutions,” says Luton.

Witsies can expect two cultural activities and a movie screening during the week as well as an interactive art installation on the library lawns.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a Wits PhD student and chairperson of Wits’ Post Graduate Association, has begun a speaking tour to Europe as part of IAW and will be uploading daily reports on Facebook.

Last year’s IAW saw 90 cities worldwide and nine universities in South Africa participating. This year, Luton says, over 25 different civil societies, political and student groups such as the South African Students Congress, Kaleidoscope, South African Council of Churches, to name a few, are getting involved.