South African university student council's call to expel Jewish students sparks outrage

(Photo: Reuters)Palestinian supporters (L) and Israeli delegates argue heatedly outside the World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban September 2, 2001. The U.N. anti-racism conference remained mired in Middle East politics on Sunday after thousands of non-governmental organisations endorsed what Israel condemned as an outburst of hatred against Jews with allegations equating Zionism with racism.

The Students Representative Council at the Durban University of Technology in South Africa has  evoked outrage and accusations of anti-Semitism and racism for seeking to have the college expel Jewish students who have supported the State of Israel.

The DUT student council said its demand applies also to students at the university in the east coast city who are sponsored by the Israeli government.

The demands, sent to the DUT management, have shocked and angered Jewish organizations, Durban's Daily News reported on February 11.

The vice-chancellor, or head, of the university, Professor Ahmed Bawa, said the demand by the SRC and the Progressive Youth Alliance that the DUT deregister all Jewish students "is totally unacceptable."

"One of the demands on the [student council] memorandum was deregistration of Jewish students at DUT, to which my response was that this was outrageous, preposterous and a deep violation of our National Constitution and every human rights principle.

"No student at DUT will be discriminated against on the basis of religion, race, gender, political affiliation or sexual orientation.

"I also need to make this clear, that whilst we acknowledge and respect the constitutional right to peaceful protest, the University will not condone the disruption of classes and the intimidation of non-protesting students and staff," said Bawa in a statement.

The Secretary of the Student Representative Council, Mqondisi Duma, said: "As the SRC, we had a meeting and analysed international politics.

"We took the decision that Jewish students, especially those who do not support the Palestinian struggle, should deregister."

On February 10, Natan Pollack, the national chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students, said the suggestion is "deplorable."


"To discriminate against people because of their religious and political standpoint goes against freedom of speech," Pollack said.

The chairwoman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Durban-based Mary Kluk, said she is "appalled" and said it is unacceptable that such demands can be made in an academic institution.

The youth league of South Africa's ruling African National Congress and its South African Students Congress are unequivocally opposed to the State of Israel and supports the cause of Palestinians.

Although Jews were at the forefront of the fight against South Africa's racist apartheid policies before 1990, the government during that era had close military ties with Israel.

Jews held key positions in the ANC and its ally the South African Community Party along with the trade union movement during the struggle against apartheid, but as the country's Jewish population has dwindled due to emigration Jewish influence has been eclipsed by Muslims opposed to Israel.

The former leader of South Africa's main opposition Democratic Alliance party in South Africa's parliament, Tony Leon, is Jewish.   

The party now has a black parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane, and it refutes ANC charges it is a party for minority whites who make up some 10 percent of South Africa's population.

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