Vandalism marks Israel Apartheid Week at Wits

DEFACED: A student looks at the Israel Apartheid Week wall that was defaced. The words “Propaganda” and Brain-washed” were scrawled on the wall. Event co-ordinator Tasneem Essop said she was disappointed about the vandalism. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

DEFACED: A student looks at the Israel Apartheid Week wall that was defaced. The words “Propaganda” and Brain-washed” were scrawled on the wall. Event co-ordinator Tasneem Essop said she was disappointed about the vandalism. Photo: Shandukani Mulaudzi

A STUDENT wall announcing Israel Apartheid Week events was discovered to have been vandalised on Thursday morning.

The words “Propaganda” and “Brain Washing” were spray-painted across the wall in large, black letters. The phrase “Realise, Real Eyes, Real Lies” was also written into a corner of the wall.

The wall is used by different student groups to announce events and messages. Vandalism against the wall when its subject is the Israel-Palestine conflict is a regular occurrence.

Last week, the same wall, this time painted by the SA Union of Jewish Students, was also vandalised. A depiction of Israel on a map of the Middle East was blackened out and part of a written message was also blackened out.

On Tuesday, students sympathetic to Palestine protested against a performance by Israel-born pianist Yossi Reshef in the SW Engineering block.

Members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), Muslim Students Association (MSA), Wits Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) gathered outside the Atrium ready to bring the concert to a stop.

SRC secretary Tasneem Essop said: “We heard of plans to host an Israeli pianist brought to South Africa by the Israeli embassy. We then immediately wrote to the relevant university staff calling for them to cancel the event as it is a direct violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as adopted by the SRC last year.”

“Protest was our last resort.”

Israel Apartheid Week is hosted annually across the world by pro-Palestinian activists. As part of their involvement, Wits PSC hosted a series of events throughout the week, which were open to students on campus such as an exhibition at the library lawns.

“We have some photos up as well as a mock prison which represents Palestinians who have been detained illegally,” Essop said.

There was also a discussion on Tuesday evening and a film screening on Wednesday.

A balloon release, silent protest and panel discussion were planned for Thursday. An open mic session is planned for Friday.

Essop said that they had faced some challenges with regards to planning their events. They wanted to have a photo exhibition and film screening in a residence but university officials said no political events were allowed in there.

Essop said usually society events were organised through the Dean of Students Prem Coopoo and Student Development and Leadership Unit (SDLU) however this year they were requested to submit their information and list of events they planned to both Coopoo and university Registrar Kirti Menon.

Coopoo denied that Israel Apartheid Week had been treated unfairly as this was not the first time that a club or society event was reviewed by the vice chancellor’s office.

“Events hosted by SAUJS and Wits PSC have to be approved by my office. This has been the practice for the past eight years. Tasneem and Tokelo Nhlapo objected to this six weeks ago in a discussion with me. I explained that all policies and practices are subject to evaluation and review,” said Coopoo.

She suggested they submit a proposal to review the policies but they had not taken this up.

Coopoo said that when she had doubts about an event she seeks advice of other members of management.

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