Israeli apartheid week unleashes turf war


Tensions flared as the PSC and SAUJS shared the piazza outside the Great Hall during the Israel Apartheid Week.

STAND OFF: Tensions over Israeli’s occupation of Palestinian land were replicated on campus when opposing camps laid claim to the piazza. Photo: Aarti Bhana

STAND OFF: Tensions over Israeli’s occupation of Palestinian land were replicated on campus when opposing camps laid claim to the piazza.                                                                  Photo: Aarti Bhana


Jewish student organisation responds to Dlamini’s Hitler comments

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) said “firm action”,  will be taken against the Wits SRC president following his “Adolf Hitler” Facebook post on Saturday. The union called Dlamini a “racist” and said they will ensure he no longer maintains his presidency as he is “a total embarrassment and disgrace to Wits University.”

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) said it will take “firm action” against Wits’ SRC (Students Representatives Council) president, Mcebo Dlamini, following his controversial “Adolf Hitler” Facebook post on Saturday.

Natan Pollack, SAUJS chairman, said the union has not yet decided exactly what action will be taken against Dlamini.

In a statement to Wits Vuvuzela, the union called Dlamini a “racist” and said his statements were “anti-Semitic, constituting hate speech according to the South African constitution”.

Pollack said “[Dlamini’s] racist statement that ‘every white person has elements of Adolf Hitler’ is an utter insult to our democratic rainbow nation.”

Dlamini told Wits Vuvuzela he researched Hitler extensively and shared his admiration for the former Nazi Germany dictator. “What I love about Hitler is his charisma and his capabilities to organise people,” Dlamini said.

“We need more leaders of such cailbre. I love Adolf Hitler,” Dlamini said.

Pollack added the union was “appalled” by Dlamini’s behaviour, the “anti-Semitic image” he posted which compared a democratic Israel to Nazi Germany and his comment: “I love Adolf HITLER.”

SAUJS said Dlamini’s behaviour was a complete violation of his leadership role as president of the SRC and a “total embarrassment and disgrace to Wits University.”

“This is not Mr Dlamini’s first anti-Semitic comment, nor is it his first time to face disciplinary action from the University, consistently proving his inability to hold a position of leadership,” Pollack said.

Pollack added that the union were committed to ensuring Dlamini no longer leads the University as a “shameful, anti-Semitic racist.”

Late last night, an online petition was created and had reached 230 signatures, calling for the removal of Dlamini as SRC President. The motivation for the petition read: “It is unacceptable on any level for any person, yet alone a figurehead, to make such sweeping, racially motivated antisemitic remarks and express support for a man who sent approximately eleven million people to their deaths”.

The battle of the rugby shield tightens

Wits rugby team Medics “Young Doctors” is currently number one at the university, having lost none of their matches this year from ten teams. Their latest victory was against Monash for the Rugby Internal League play off.

Following Young Doctors is Masakhane with 208 points and the Engineers with 173 points. The SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) which still have not won any games since the league started, managed only 50 points and continue to remain at the bottom this semester.

SAUJS have not played any games this semester and have been troubled since their team had a leadership deficit – their manager only just returned two weeks ago from a two month trip overseas. Alan Leonard, Rugby Internal League coordinator, said, “If SAUJS cannot continue then the scores for SAUJS will be wiped out and it will be as if they had not played. That levels the playing field”.

Meanwhile, Masakhane is determined to take the Medics on in the finale after they lost only one game last semester against the Medics. Katlego Maseko, Masakhane captain said his team had no problems, had “the best defence in the league” and he hoped to see Medics in the final.

Even though the Medics have done extremely well their captain, Donovan Heslop disclosed that “one part of our game that needs work is our defence and kicking, this has always been a problem with us our strongest asset has been our attack, we have very exciting players who are able to create tries when needed.”

TEAM HUG: The Medics rejoice after winning a game. Photo by: Tendai

TEAM HUG: The Medics rejoice after winning a game.        Photo by: Tendai Dube

For the past three years the Medics have only made it to the semi-finals, not winning the cup. Heslop said this time, “Our goal is to make the final and hopefully win the league.”

As for Mens Res, they opened this semester with another loss. Leonard said, “Last week their fitness was not up to scratch and they seem to change their team every week.”

“I think the other teams have got stronger but also with the disruptions the teams have not played the same number of games,” he added.

Monash captain, Tatenda Mtemeri said that one of the reasons for their lack lustre performance well is that they had a lot of new players most of which were under 19. They had only three seniors remaining.

However, it’s not really a Super 6 anymore; this year all teams will play until the semi-finals. This means that all teams on the league, Medics, Masakhane, Engineers, Commerce, Monash, Humanities (Titans), Mens Res (Raiders), South African Hellenic Association (SHA), MGI Tigers and SAUJs will be part of the remaining three rounds of the games.

The Rugby Internal League Final will take place on September 10, with only three rounds left until the play-offs. The last week will see a five game round if SAUJS emerges from its leadership crises and continue to play, according to Leonard.

Close on the Medics’ heels for winner, according to the current standing, looks likely to be Masakhane or the Engineers.

Stirring fears of anti-Semitism

17_Paranoia due to Gaza

WHY SO PARANOID? SAUJS member Ido Cohen having an argument with a Wits PSC member over the state of Isreal.                                                                                                                                                                          Photo:Luke Matthews

An e-mail warning Jewish students against alleged violent attacks and anti-Semitic behaviour at Wits University was circulated this week by the South African Union of Jewish students (SAUJS).

“Over the past few days there have been numerous anti-Semitic incidents across the globe arising from the crisis in Israel,” reads the e-mail.

“With the current levels of anti-Semitic rhetoric, we are concerned that actions similar to that seen across the world will take place in South Africa.”

SAUJS, which provides an active voice for the state of Israel on campus, said in the e-mail it was concerned for the safety of its members at Wits and suggested precautionary steps to avoid violent attacks.

SAUJS fears

According to the e-mail, victims of anti-Semitism should get a full description of the perpetrators including “gender, approximate age, race or any other distinguishing features”. The e-mail warned to “not unnecessarily engage in debate or discussion that could become heated”.

It also suggested that students leaving campus at night not walk on their own to their cars.

It also provided an emergency contact list that included the  details of SAUJS chairperson Ariela Carno, vice chair Cayla Urdang and treasurer Natan Pollack, in the event of an anti-Semitic incident.

In a telephonic interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Pollack noted the fears of the organisation about anti-Semitism saying: “It is worrying – it is the ripple effect of what has been happening [globally].”  Pollack added that SAUJS supports the Israeli government’s actions. “We fully stand behind Israel,” he said.

Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC) chairperson Shaeera Kalla said SAUJS’s fears are unfounded.

She said there were no reported cases of violent attacks against the Jewish student community on campus.

“We do not have a culture of violence at Wits,” said Kalla.

An international issue

The concern for the safety of Jewish students on campus comes after the ground invasion of the Gaza strip by the Israeli military last week.

Prof Steven Friedman of the University of Johannesburg criticised the e-mail and said it creates an unnecessary panic among Jewish students as it confuses two different issues: protests against Israel and anti-Semitism.

“What we have seen recently is expressions of anger at the Israeli state.

“This is not anti-Semitism: many Jews have participated in the protests. Nor is it a threat to the personal safety of Jewish students,” said Friedman.

“The e-mail is no accident. Supporters of the Israeli government’s actions always try to whip up the fear of anti-Semitism in an attempt to drive all Jews into the Israeli government camp,” he said.

A student concern

A Wits Jewish student, who did not want to be identified, has had no personal experience of anti-Semitism at Wits but said they understood the fears of students who are outspoken and in support of Israel.

PSC treasurer Alex Freeman said the e-mail is an attempt to portray the Jewish student community as victims whilst undermining the struggle of the people of Palestine.

Vice Chancellor Adam Habib called Wits “a safe place for articulation of all ideas” and said if there were rumours of anti-Semitism they should be reported to the dean of students.

“If anyone at Wits is complicit in threatening the security of another, we will take the firmest action possible,” said Habib.






GALLERY: Israeli Apartheid Week 2014

The annual, and usually controversial, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) kicked off at Wits University this Monday. The event was unusually subdued but certainly more colourful than those in recent years.

The big divide, physical and otherwise

The South Arican Union of Jewish Students have erected what they call a peace tent on the library lawns. Not much foot traffic under the tent today. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The South Arican Union of Jewish Students (SAUJUS) have erected what they call a peace tent on the library lawns. Not much foot traffic under the tent today on account of the rain. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Walking on the library lawns today Witsies were met by two separate installations across from one another symbolic of each side of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

On the eastern most side of the lawns stood spray-painted signs heralding the start of “Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) 2014”. On the western most side stood a big beige “peace tent” erected by the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS).

The peace tent remained deserted during lunch, as the persistent rain kept students from walking across the water-logged lawns to the tent and its contents. Inside they would have found notice boards with information on how to fold peace doves and “images that show the positive and peaceful side of life in Israel,” said SAUJS chair, Ariela Carno.

Right across from the tent, the Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) hosted the first of many film screenings planned for IAW on campus.

The documentary Occupation 101: The Voices of the Silenced Majority, screened at lunch drew a decent crowd of students who were there to watch in support and in an effort to learn more about IAW.

Mpho Sibiya, 2nd year BA said: “I actually just came to find out more about the whole Israel/Palestine thing. I don’t know if I can say I support the cause or not.”

PSC president Tasneem Essop and deputy chair Alex Freeman addressed the students before the screening.

Contested peace

Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 is the biggest yet, garnering international support from various political and social players. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Israeli Apartheid Week 2014 is the biggest yet, garnering international support from various political and social players. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Essop explained that IAW is an effort to highlight apartheid in Israel and with the help of a global boycott movement to drive the boycotted state into negotiations, as was done in South Africa not so long ago.

In response to the lack of an official stance by Wits University, Essop said: “The university should have a stance,” and this is why the PSC will be having a debate with vice chancellor, Adam Habib this coming Friday to try and challenge the “free space for all” view they currently hold.

In response to a question about the peace tent, Freeman said: “They (SAUJS) don’t really want peace”. He added that at present SAUJS has a Zionist stance and this is the reason he will never join them, even though he is Jewish.

Once the 2006 documentary directed Abdallah Omeish and Sufyan Omeish got started the information given by Essop and Freeman came to life onscreen through the lived experiences of people in Israel.

The documentary was originally made with the express purpose of debunking misrepresentations of Palestinians to the American public, said Essop.

Sibiya said she had been moved by what she had seen, “I didn’t understand the extent of the problem.”

Vandalism marks Israel Apartheid Week at Wits

DEFACED: A student looks at the Israel Apartheid Week wall that was defaced. The words “Propaganda” and Brain-washed” were scrawled on the wall. Event co-ordinator Tasneem Essop said she was disappointed about the vandalism. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

DEFACED: A student looks at the Israel Apartheid Week wall that was defaced. The words “Propaganda” and Brain-washed” were scrawled on the wall. Event co-ordinator Tasneem Essop said she was disappointed about the vandalism. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

A STUDENT wall announcing Israel Apartheid Week events was discovered to have been vandalised on Thursday morning.

The words “Propaganda” and “Brain Washing” were spray-painted across the wall in large, black letters. The phrase “Realise, Real Eyes, Real Lies” was also written into a corner of the wall.

The wall is used by different student groups to announce events and messages. Vandalism against the wall when its subject is the Israel-Palestine conflict is a regular occurrence.

Last week, the same wall, this time painted by the SA Union of Jewish Students, was also vandalised. A depiction of Israel on a map of the Middle East was blackened out and part of a written message was also blackened out.

On Tuesday, students sympathetic to Palestine protested against a performance by Israel-born pianist Yossi Reshef in the SW Engineering block.

Members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) gathered outside the Atrium ready to bring the concert to a stop.

SRC secretary Tasneem Essop said: “We heard of plans to host an Israeli pianist brought to South Africa by the Israeli embassy. We then immediately wrote to the relevant university staff calling for them to cancel the event as it is a direct violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as adopted by the SRC last year.”

“Protest was our last resort.”

Israel Apartheid Week is hosted annually across the world by pro-Palestinian activists.  As part of their involvement, Wits PSC hosted a series of events throughout the week, which were open to students on campus such as an exhibition at the library lawns.

“We have some photos up as well as a mock prison which represents Palestinians who have been detained illegally,” Essop said.

There was also a discussion on Tuesday evening and a film screening on Wednesday.

A balloon release, silent protest and panel discussion were planned for Thursday. An open mic session is planned for Friday.

Essop said that they had faced some challenges with regards to planning their events.  They wanted to have a photo exhibition and film screening in a residence but university officials said no political events were allowed in there.

Essop said usually society events were organised through the Dean of Students Prem Coopoo and Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) however this year they were requested to submit their information and list of events they planned to both Coopoo and university Registrar Kirti Menon.

Coopoo denied that Israel Apartheid Week had been treated unfairly as this was not the first time that a club or society event was reviewed by the vice chancellor’s office.

“Events hosted by SAUJS and Wits PSC have to be approved by my office. This has been the practice for the past eight years. Tasneem and Tokelo Nhlapo objected to this six weeks ago in a discussion with me. I explained that all policies and practices are subject to evaluation and review,” said Coopoo.

She suggested they submit a proposal to review the policies but they had not taken this up.

Coopoo said that when she had doubts about an event she seeks advice of other members of management.

Updated: SAUJS sets the record straight

Update: 12 March 2013

SAUJS has written to Wits Vuvuzela retracting allegations of hate speech against Tokelo Nhlapo, as explained in the original article below,  and offered a formal apology.

SAUJS further said that Nhlapo painting over the mural was not “against university regulations”.

The organisation attributes their initial allegations to “an unfortunate internal error in communication within SAUJS”. Wits Vuvuzela quoted SAUJS media officer Gabriella Tobias throughout the article below and according to SAUJS national liaison officer Harry Hoshovsky an “erroneous and incorrect” release was sent from Tobias’s email address “without her knowledge”.


“SAUJS fundamentally respects Mr Nhlapo’s right to freedom of expression, even though we may not agree with his opinions regarding Israel. Thus, we wish to sincerely apologise to Mr Nhlapo with respect to this dubious accusation being erroneously published on our behalf,” Hoshovsky said in an updated statement.

Hoshovsky added that SAUJS did not intend to accuse Nhlapo of hate speech, despite him calling the mural “racist and wrong”.


Original: 11 March 2013

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) have accused an SRC member of hate speech, following what they label as “racist remarks” uttered during Israel Awareness Week.

Earlier this week Wits Vuvuzela reported that SRC vice president Tokelo Nhlapo and a fellow student painted over the mural as the duo believed that the mural was “racist and wrong”. Nhlapo also said: “most of these countries (portrayed on the wall) have signed a peace treaty with Israel”. SAUJS maintains that only two Arab countries (Egypt and Jordan) have signed peace treaties with Israel.

“As it stands, Nhlapo has been given a clear platform to spew his totally inaccurate, virulent and defamatory hate speech,” SAUJS media officer Gabriella Tobias said in a statement sent to Wits Vuvuzela.

SAUJS painted the wall in conjunction with an exhibition to raise awareness about Israel’s small geographical size compared to its hostile neighbouring states and Israel’s existence among students.

Nhlapo further alleged that if Israel wanted peace it “would stop the illegal occupation of Gaza”, a comment which SAUJS has rubbished.  “This is factually wrong as Israel unilaterally and totally withdrew its military presence in Gaza in 2005 along with all its Jewish population.”

“Currently Israel maintains a UN-supported blockade on Gaza so as to prevent military material reaching Hamas terrorists,” Tobias added.

According to Nhlapo, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) and Palestinian Solidarity Alliance (PSA) have lodged a complaint with the Dean of Student Affairs Prem Coopoo, “who approved the artwork”.

Tobias said that Nhlapo contravened Wits regulation when he painted over the mural, as the wall was not booked by any society. However the Dean of Student Affairs Prem Coopoo said: “The time that SAUJS had booked the wall had expired. The next day onwards, it was booked by the MSA and that’s the reason for clearing the wall”.



Is the SRC misrepresenting us?

Photo: Akin Oyedele


Latest Print Edition (September 14)


The SRC’s decision to boycott Israel, academically and culturally, has made international news as the official voice of Wits students – even though the outgoing SRC was elected by less than 20% of the student body.

In response, Wits released a statement signalling concern that the SRC did not represent all students or the views of the University.

“The views and opinions expressed by the Students’ Representative Council and other student groups do not represent the official views of the University, nor are they an accurate reflection of the views of the majority of students, staff and alumni.”

The SRC’s stance was reported locally and internationally by papers like the Washington Post, with some online news agencies falsely reporting that the entire university had joined in the boycott.

The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) has a strong presence at the university with almost 1000 Jewish students.

There are no SAUJS members in the SRC currently, although Wits Chairman Harry Hoshovsky said that the 20% voter turnout is a “clear sign of student apathy”.

“It is somewhat pretentious for the SRC to claim that it represents all Wits students, as barely one out of five actually voted in the elections and thus the SRC cannot be said to officially represent more than that number.”

SAUJS claims that the SRC is in contravention of its own Constitution, specifically section 8(1)(r). This section states that the SRC is duty bound to “initiate,  undertake or stimulate discussion or debate or action, or to make its views known on matters of general concern that are likely to be of interest to or to affect students.”

The SRC made the decision to boycott after it was proposed by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC). Fatima Mukaddam, SRC Fundraising and Entreprenuership officer, said the boycott action is in line with Wits’ ethics.

“Israel is a violator of human rights, and the occupation of the West bank is illegal under international law. If Wits and the SRC hold the values of respecting human rights then it is completely under the mandate of the SRC of boycott Israel.”

Just over 20% of the student body voted in the 2012 SRC elections. The IEC requires 25% of students to vote for a legitimate SRC, but when this quota is not met, the votes are then taken to the Vice Chancellor who then declares the elections valid.

Jabu Mashinini, the member of staff elected by the IEC to oversee the elections, said these percentages are acceptable given that “11,028 of the voters are post graduate students who are off campus most of the time”.

Tatenda Dune, a 1st year BA student said, “I think it’s unethical and incorrect for the SRC to represent us on such big issues, considering only 20% of the students voted. Ultimately they are representing a very small part of Wits.”