Pretoria – Jewish students at the University of Pretoria have become the latest target in a antisemitic campaign of harassment from student groups including the Palestinian Solidarity Committee at the University of Pretoria (PSCUP).
The controversy arose after the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), initiated a fundraiser, which was approved and authorized by the university’s Student Representative Council (SRC), to provide financial aid to impoverished students on their campus.
Instead of being met with gratitude or cooperation, however, SAUJS was met with statements of condemnation from multiple student groups on campus in a blatantly antisemitic campaign led by the campus BDS group.
The claims of the PSCUP, as well statements from other campus organizations, charged that the funds raised by Jewish students were “blood money” and argued that the money had come from those responsible for the killing of Palestinians, despite the fact all funds were raised locally from both Jewish and non-Jewish donors.
The official statement from the PSCUP read, “this collaboration is problematic for a myriad of reasons, most importantly that SAUJS has proven themselves to be an endorser of the unjust oppression of Palestinian citizens, given their strong support for the State of Israel and their apartheid policies…We find it rather contradictory… that they (the SRC) would be willing to accept funding from a structure that was built on Zionist policies and stolen land.”
These extreme allegations culminated during the campus’ “Israel Apartheid Week” on March 15 during which PSCUP organized a sit-in along with nine other campus groups, to protest against the SRC for partnering with SAUJS in the charitable efforts of the Jewish students on campus.
Under the moniker of “Students Against Apartheid”, dozens of students protested on campus with signs reading “from the river to the sea Palestine will be free”, openly calling for the destruction of Israel, and demanding that the SRC end their cooperation with the Jewish students on campus, purely due to fact they are “Zionists”.
However, the protest was shortly disbanded as the students failed to apply for permission to hold the protest on campus, likely due to the fact the university would not have approved such a blatant display of antisemitism to take place.
Sasha Said, Chair of SAUJS at the University, stated “(These campus groups) all said Zionist presence does not belong on this campus… and they released a statement saying we are funneling in money with Palestinian blood on it… they’re mad at us because the people who are donating this money are Zionists — but really they mean Jews.”
Said, who has courageously stood up as a leader on campus in the face of such hostility, told Ynet that she responded to the student groups explaining that “when you’re attacking me as a Zionist you’re using that as a mask, because you’re attacking me as a Jew.”
Said also emphasized that while the targeting of Jewish students on campus is alarming, the University had been supportive of the Jewish students and would also be holding a disciplinary review of the illegal protest.
During the protest, SAUJS students gathered at the university to hold an event simultaneously with Arab Israeli activist Yoseph Haddad, who spoke about the reality in Israel as a minority and shared words of encouragement for the students facing hostility merely for who they are. Both events ended without further incident, yet the problem of antisemitic harassment continues on campuses throughout South Africa, and the entire world from anti-Israel student groups.
Liora Rez, head of the watchdog organization Stop Antisemitism which monitors antisemitic events globally, told Ynet that the targeting of Jewish students is a common trend of self declared “pro-Palestinian” groups. “From the US to the UK, to South Africa, we see the ‘Free Palestine’ movement doing nothing to bring peace to the region yet successfully isolate and target Jewish students at each of the campuses they hit.”
Jewish students in South Africa report particular hostility on campus as the BDS movement is very influential in South Africa and the blatant nature of antisemitism is often more extreme and pronounced than anti-Israel manifestations in other countries. “Israel Apartheid Week”, began on March 13 and will continue through March 24 across campuses in South Africa.