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.
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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”.
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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.
Both concert organisers and protesters felt like winners after the Daniel Zamir concert that was held at Wits University last night.
Muhammed Desai, coordinator of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa, said the protest had been effective because they were able to make those attending the concert “uncomfortable”.
“I am an alumnus of this university, they are the ones that are outsiders here, and we want them to feel like outsiders,” said Desai
[pullquote]“You have blood on your hands.You think you can use our university to cleanse your image.”[/pullquote]He said because the organisers had to send out an urgent message to those attending the concert to tell them how to get in, which entrances to use and which to avoid is also a sign of victory – “already it shows that they are tense and they are stressed because SA is becoming so difficult for pro-Israeli organisations to operate [in].”
But the organisers also felt that the night was a success. The concert was held as the university’s way of making up for the one that was disrupted in March. The president of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), Zev Krengel said Wits had lived up to its promise. : “The team was great. I could not fault Wits in anyway.”
Krengel said the protesters were peaceful apart from the group that moved into the corridor and which he described as aggressive. At first the protesters were singing softly but as the night went on they sang and chanted loudly. The protesters confronted and provoked those who came for the concert.
“You have the blood of Palestine children on your jersey,” shouted a protester to a woman who was walking in to the concert area.
“ You have blood on your hands. You think you can use our university to cleanse your image,” said another protester.
Most of the people there to attend the concert passed by the protesters quickly pretending not to notice anything but not all of them. Some passed by the protesters holding up Israel scarves and flags.
“Fuck you!” said a concert attendee to a protester. “Wits University is my University, I have two degrees Wits,” said another person attending the concert replying to a protester who had shouted that they were not welcomed at Wits. Another one gave the protesters the middle finger. Some had to be subdued by those walking with them.
At some point the protesters threw papers at concert attendees as they arrived. They also sang, “dubula i-juda” (“shoot the Jew”), and chanted “there is no such thing as Israel” and “Israel apartheid” as the concert attendees were coming in.
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”.
He said there was no evidence of Jews being harmed because of anti-Semitic impulses, – “the whole idea anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion”. He said if there were anti-Semitic sentiments they would flatly challenge it even if it came from within their protest.
[pullquote align=”right”]Bring together a Palestine musician and an Israeli one.[/pullquote]
He said there a peaceful process going on and South Africans had to encourage that.
Ari Kruger, who attended the concert said the the term “apartheid” freely used just to evoke enthusiasm and sensitivity among South Africans: “Look at their supporters, the Cosatu guys, I’ve spoken to them on many occasions, they actually don’t have the facts, they are being told, ‘come to the function, apartheid, free Palestine, South Africa’s history is Palestinian reality’ which is actually not true.”
Krengel challenged the BDS and Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) to have a joint concert with them, to “bring together a Palestine musician and an Israeli one.”
Dr Shireen Ally, a Wits lecturer who was part of a group that represented Wits staff and students, said the university refused them the right to have a silent protest and move into the Great Hall foyer.
Ally said they would be seeking legal advice because the university had “infringed” on their rights to protest.
Deputy vice-chancellor, Prof Tawana Kupe said the university had given permission for a silent protest, just not permission to be in the foyer which the protesters had not asked for anyway.
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: www.jewishsa.co.za
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.
[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.”