An Israeli mission to South African campuses is expected to arrive on August 11. Palestinian students have written to South African colleagues asking them to challenge and boycott the Israeli delegation. Three South African student bodies– the South African Union of Students, the South African Student Congress, and the Young Communist League of South Africa issued the following statement at a joint press conference yesterday at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The groups included South Africa’s oldest and most representative student bodies.
JOINT STUDENT STATEMENT
There is no doubt, Israel is an Apartheid state; There is only one word, boycott!
We, students and youth of a post Apartheid South Africa, who bear the scars of a racist history and who continue to fight for complete liberation, have a duty and responsibility to stand in solidarity with those facing oppression worldwide. Israeli apartheid is one such form of oppression.
Israeli media boast that a mission of 150 Israeli propagandists will be sent to universities in 5 countries to fix Israel’s “serious image problems”. The Israeli mission will begin on South African campuses on the 11th of August, with a delegation that includes at least two aides from the Israeli parliament. A delegation member was clear about the intention of their trip: “We have to create some doubt in their [South African students’] minds.”
Don’t patronize us! We lived apartheid, we suffered apartheid, we know what apartheid is, we recognise apartheid when we see it. And when we see Israel, we see a regime that practices apartheid. Israel’s image needs no changing; its policies do! We urge Israeli students to instead join the growing and inspiring internal resistance to their regime, particularly the boycott from within movement, rather than waste time and money on these propaganda trips to deceive us Black students, South Africans have no need for these Muldergate-like trips.
A “major focus” of the Israeli trip will be the University of Johannesburg (UJ). On 1st April 2011 UJ’s Senate, with the full backing of UJ’s Student Representative Council, terminated its institutional relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University. Indeed, UJ set an academic boycott of Israel precedent that all other South African and international universities can follow.
Following UJ’s decision, and in response to a letter sent to us by Palestinian students, we urge all SRCs, student groups and other youth structures to strategize and implement a boycott of Israel and its campaigns. We declare that all SA campuses must be Apartheid-Israel free zones.
As with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, international solidarity is key in overcoming Israeli Apartheid. In Nelson Mandela’s words: ‘It behoves all South Africans, erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice….we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’
FOR THE RECORD
A. On Education
1. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories has had disastrous effects on access to education for Palestinians. Palestinian students face poverty, harassment and humiliation as a result of Israeli policy and actions.
2. Israel mounted direct attacks on Palestinian education, including the complete closures of two Palestinian universities in 2003 and the targeting and bombing of more than 60 primary and secondary schools during the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2009.
3. Israel’s assault on the education of Palestinians is illegal under international law. The right to education is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international instruments.
4. The Israeli blockade of Gaza has had a detrimental impact on students. Gaza’s electricity supply is controlled by Israel and shut-down for several hours most days, making it difficult for students to study. Moreover, the blockade means insufficient quantities of educational equipment, such as paper, desks and books, reach students.
B. On Israeli Apartheid
5. Several of our senior leaders have compared Israel to Apartheid South Africa, including Comrades Kgalema Mothlantle, Blade Nzimande, Zwelinzima Vavi, Rob Davies, Jeremy Cronin, Ahmed Kathrada, Winnie Mandela, Ronnie Kasrils, Denis Goldberg, the late Kader Asmal and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
6. Both the former and current United Nations Special Rapporteurs for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have requested that Israel be investigated for the crime of apartheid.
7. In an official report commissioned by the South African government in 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council confirmed that Israel, by its policies and practices, is guilty of the crime of apartheid.
8. In November 2010, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation called upon the Israeli government “to cease their activities that are reminiscent of apartheid forced removals…”
C. On Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
8. Palestinian civil society, including student groups, have called for a policy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it abides by international law.
9. This call has the endorsement of the largest and most representative coalition of civil and political society in Palestine. The call also has the support of a growing number of progressive Israeli groups.
10. In 2010, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Professor Richard Falk, said: “It is politically and morally appropriate, as well as legally correct, to accord maximum support to the BDS campaign.”
11. COSATU, South Africa’s largest trade union federation was one of the first unions to endorse the BDS call. Subsequently, numerous other international trade unions have also adopted a pro-BDS position.
12. Several international groups have began to advance the BDS call in the cultural, consumer, sports, economic and academic spheres. Earlier this year the largest student union in Europe, the ULU, passed a motion in support of BDS.”
ISSUED AT WITS UNIVERSITY ON THURSDAY THE 4th OF AUGUST 2011 BY
South African Union of Students, South African Student Congress and the Young Communist League of South Africa
* SASCO is South Africa’s oldest and largest student organization.
** The SA Union of Students (SAUS) comprises all South African university Student Representative Councils and is the most representative student union in the country.
*** The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) has local branches at all South African universities