This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.
Israeli Apartheid Week, key insights from the two sides of the wall, PSF and SAUJS.
Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF)
1. What are the goals of the Israeli Apartheid week for the PSF?
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an initiative that has been mandated by Palestinian civil society to the international community. Its main objective is conscientise people about the Palestinian struggle. At UCT, as the Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF), we generally look at IAW as an opportunity both to conscientise and politicise students about the Palestinian struggle, as well as a platform to launch our programs and campaigns for the year.
2. How did 2018’s Apartheid week display differ from previous years? Did it influence the momentum PSF has been gaining with regards to student awareness?
On the display specifically, this year’s IAW was especially unique. In previous years, PSF’s display was on the one side of Plaza, and the pro-Israel display was on the other. For people that had no idea about the Palestinian struggle, this gave the false impression that Israel and Palestine are two equal sides in an equal conflict. Of course, this is false. The state of Israel is an oppressor, while the Palestinian people are the oppressed. This year, the PSF’s display was right in the centre of Plaza and the pro-Israel side was off in a corner on the periphery. This really allowed us to clearly explain the plight of the students, without having to engage in the pro-Israel’s routine, typical racist arguments. For the first time the Palestinian narrative was centred, rather than sharing the space with a racist Zionist narrative.
3. Describe the general attitude UCT students have towards Israeli Apartheid Week and events hosted by the Palestinian Solidarity Forum?
There’s a spectrum to how people respond to IAW. There are those who already support the Palestinian struggle and those who don’t know much about the Palestinian struggle, but are firm supporters of human rights and liberation, who fully and enthusiastically support IAW. Then, of course, there is a small but loud minority who support Israel (either out of ignorance, or just plain racism), who routinely try to undermine IAW. And then, there is a great number of students who have never heard of either Israel or Palestine, who generally respond with curiosity and interest.
4. How does the Israeli Apartheid affect the lives of South African Israeli students?
It doesn’t affect Israeli students by virtue of them being Israeli. There are Israeli students who are anti-Zionist and recognize the crimes of their country and feel very affirmed and bolstered by IAW, and contribute a lot to IAW. There are also, though, Israeli students, who are unquestioning Zionists who presumably take great offence at IAW for criticizing their state.
5. What is PSF’s vision and how do you intend to work towards this vision?
Our broad vision is to take up the call made by Palestinian civil society to put pressure on the Israeli state and force it into a pariah position, where it has no choice but to concede Palestinian human rights. One of the most effective methods of pressuring the Israeli state is by boycotting it. And so, we are pushing for UCT to implement an academic boycott of Israel to further isolate it in the global community. We hope that this kind of work, together with the solidarity work being done nationally and internationally cumulatively puts the kind of pressure on Israel that can force a change.
6. How can students get involved in assisting the goals of PSF?
We have regular events, protests and demonstrations. We encourage all supporters of human rights to join us at any of these. We also have open meetings and we invite fellow supporters to contribute there. All this information is available on our Facebook page: UCT Palestine Solidarity Forum.
South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS)
1. What is the goal of the Israeli Apartheid week for the SAUJS?
IAW is a week where Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is violated. This leads to anti-Semitic undertones being felt throughout the week, which make Jewish students feel extremely unsafe on campus. We as SAUJS are avid promoters of free speech. However, during IAW there have been notable incidents of hate speech which we strongly condemn and stand up against.
2. How did 2018’s Apartheid week display differ from previous years? Did it influence the momentum SAUJS has been gaining with regards to student awareness?
SAUJS had their stand on a higher level of plaza. The status quo is for the PSF and SAUJS to get equal space on plaza and unfortunately this was ignored by the university. However, I don’t believe that this decreased momentum as we still had meaningful engagement and dialogue, which is one of our overarching goals for the week.
3. Describe the general attitude UCT students have towards Israeli
Apartheid Week and events hosted by the SAUJS?
We had genuine interest and engagement. Our talks were really well attended, and feedback was extremely positive.
4. How does the Israeli Apartheid affect the lives of South African Jewish students?
Refer to question one.
5. What is SAUJS’s vision and how do you intend to work towards this
Our mandate/vision is to protect and advocate for the right of Jewish students and their interest on campus. We have events for our members that encompass this.
6. How can students get involved in assisting the goals of SAUJS?
Follow us on Facebook. Any potential places to get involved will be posted there.