War of words after UCT student body screens messages from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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The SA Jewish Board of Deputies said it was appalled by a recent event held at the University of Cape Town, where messages from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas were screened.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies said it was appalled by a recent event held at the University of Cape Town, where messages from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas were screened.
PHOTO: Twitter/ @BintZainabiyoun
  • The South African Jewish Board of Deputies said it was appalled by a recent event held at the University of Cape Town.
  • Messages from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas were screened at the event.
  • The Palestinian Solidarity Forum hosted the event.
  • The university said it was aware of the event.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) is up in arms after the Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF) – a University of Cape Town (UCT) student society – screened messages from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas at a recent event.

In a statement on Wednesday, the SAJBD said it was "appalled" that an event where messages from PIJ and Hamas were screened was allowed at the university.

The event, held on Monday and hosted by the PSF, featured messages from Nasser Abu Sharif, PIJ diplomatic representative in Iran, and senior Iran-based Hamas official Khaled Qadomi.

"We recognise that the UCT decision was made under considerable pressure of time, on account of the brazen failure of the hosting organisation – the Palestine Solidarity Forum – to give the mandatory (seven days) speaker identity notification," the SAJBD said.

"The PSF consciously chose to sow disharmony and hate with its choice of speaker. At the same time, though, we are disappointed that the university authorities chose not to heed our concerns but rather to allow the screening to go ahead."

The board added that the PIJ's messages not only incited violence against Israel, but maligned Jews in the most egregious and racist terms.

"The SAJBD finds it bewildering that UCT has so palpably failed to stand by its Statement of Values, where a firm commitment is made to build an equitable social order based on respect for human rights. Students look to institutions like UCT to provide platforms for learning, debate and engagement in meaningful, respectful discussions free of discrimination, persecution or hate. The student bodies, [South African Union of Jewish Students] and PSF, had agreed to rules of engagement, which UCT has neglected to enforce and allowed the PSF to breach," it added.

READ | UCT, SRC reach agreement on fee block issues amid student protests

The PSF said it disagreed.

"It has been an established practice by SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students) together with the SAJBD and organisations such as StandWithUS to bring Israeli military officials and individuals who served in the Israeli defence force to campuses to terrorise students such as ourselves," Anwar Adams from the PSF said in a statement.

Adams added:

It is ironic that the SAJBD would cry wolf due to the showing of pre-recorded messages when they have supported and promoted Israeli soldiers attending campuses during the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW). The crux of the matter is that Israel is an apartheid state, which the SAJBD refuses to acknowledge.

The PSF claimed it was not "the position of the Republic of South Africa to malign Hamas or the PIJ". It said several international civic groups recognised Israel as an apartheid state.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said it was aware that a student organisation held an event on campus on Monday where the two speakers in question participated.

"Concerns around the speakers were raised by another student society prior to the event. An engagement followed between the two student structures on this matter. It should be noted that this was not an institutional event but one hosted by a student society," he added.

Moholola said it should be noted that UCT management was not involved in the process of inviting speakers for events hosted by staff and/or student structures. He said they were autonomous in this context.

He said management didn't necessarily align with any views held or expressed by invited speakers.

Note: This story was updated to reflect that IAW stands for Israeli Apartheid Week.

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