Anti-semitism, anti-choice and anarchy during plaza week

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by Catherine Heron

Members of Black First Land First (BLF) were caught on tape launching an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish student during Plaza Week with exclamations such as “Hitler should have killed all of you”. On Wednesday, March 8th 2017, a South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) member was approached by two self-identified members of BLF who accosted him for “stealing land from the Palestinians” and for “killing Palestinians”. Refusing to engage with the Jewish student, the BLF members became more aggressive and shouted “Hitler should have killed all of you, you thieves”. When asked about why they approached the student, the BLF members stated that it was because his shirt read “Jewish”. The BLF spokesman emphasised that “the ideas of this person must not be taken as the ideas of the whole BLF” and that their constitution will be relooked at to deal with the matter. BLF initially denied knowledge of the incident but were presented with the evidence recorded by the student on tape, video and in photos. In the interview, BLF categorically condemned anti-Semitism and stated that the matter will be dealt with internally.

This is not the first account of hostility involving the newly formed BLF. On Thursday, March 9th 2017, tempers flared when BLF members clashed with UCT Students for Life over reproductive health and land. Female members of BLF approached UCT Students for Life’s stand and initiated a debate about the Pro-Life movement and whether the society should be allowed to exist at UCT. The discussion became heated as several other BLF members arrived to support their comrades. Black students managing the stall were asked “if the Whites had given them land” and were rebuked for “working with Whites”. BLF justified that it “is a valid question to ask” because of how critical the land issue is in South Africa. The situation erupted once BLF began dismantling the Pro-Life stand and occupying the space, calling for the removal of the “violent space”. Acting upon CPS’ advice, the stall managers packed up and left without much trouble. Wandile Mhlongo, Chairperson of UCT Students for Life, stated that the incident “has infringed on our own rights to run a legitimate student society.”

The story has an interesting development. A box containing Pro-Life material was allegedly stolen from plaza during the incident and UCT Students for Life are adamant that BLF took it. They have rejected BLF’s profession of innocence as “while they [BLF] deny stealing the box, they were able to accurately describe what was in the missing box and so that rather makes the denial improbable”. Witnesses were not able to confirm whether BLF had taken the box. BLF states that “it is nothing but gossip based on nonsense”.

“Refusing to engage with the Jewish student, the BLF members became more aggressive and shouted “Hitler should have killed all of you, you thieves”.”

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