By Lungile Sigasa
This article is exclusive to the online Edition 1 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Last week was Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), which is a demonstration that takes place every year, involving the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF) and the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS). This year there was a change in the setup of the demonstration, which has sparked dialogue among the societies.
Historically, during IAW the PSF and SAUJS have occupied equal halves of Jammie plaza (with PSF occupying the right, and SAUJS occupying the left).
This year, the structure has changed: PSF is occupying all of Jammie Plaza, with their demonstration placed in the centre of the space, while SAUJS is situated at the top of the stairs, right of Memorial Hall.
According to Ilam Manjra, a member of the executive of PSF, the change in positioning of the societies was a deliberate effort by PSF. PSF wanted to make it clear that the Zionist message and the pro-Palestine message do not have the same gravity. Manjra further commented that “the Israel side [SAUJS] cannot, as the spokespeople of the oppressor, be given equal airtime as the spokespeople of the oppressed [PSF].”
Edward Bernstein, chair of PSF, explained that the insistence on the side of PSF to occupy all of Plaza was to address the power imbalance between Israel and Palestine, centralising the narrative of the oppressed. Bernstein believes UCT allowed PSF to occupy the entire space due to their Defiance campaign in 2017, wherein they started off in their allotted slot but moved their demonstration to the centre.
When asked about the demonstration, SAUJS Chairperson, Jessie Soicher, says that UCT strong-armed the society into accepting a spot that is sub-par to the plaza, as they were receiving less foot traffic (and therefore interaction with students). Soicher further commented that the status quo of sharing the plaza had changed and that, while it had no symbolic significance, it was unfair to be moved to a disadvantaged position when compared to PSF.
The occupation of space has a great symbolic significance to PSF. They built a replica of the Israeli Apartheid wall, which segregates the land and impedes access for many Palestinians who, due to the wall, are denied the ability to see family and friends, and access to basic necessities such as healthcare and schooling.
For more information on the programmes that each society ran over IAW, visit the societies’ Facebook pages below: