What do South African students know about Palestine?

Across university campuses, student organisations are running demonstrations for Israeli Apartheid Week. The conflict between the two countries, which the week is focused on, is one that has spanned many years in far-off places. Even so, some South African students still have an inkling about what is going on. THE DAILY VOX TEAM went out and asked students at a few university campuses what they think is going on in Palestine and Israel.

yenziweYenziwe Mbuyisa, 18, Humanities student, Rhodes University

What do you know about the Palestine-Israel issue?
I think the conflict is a bad thing obviously, because a lot of people are dying with the bombings that take place, which infringe on human rights. I think that innocent civilians are dying and the oppression that Palestinians receive from the Israeli government is terrible. From the information I have, I think that both the Palestinians and Israelis both want a state, so they should have separate states, but it’s a very complicated issue because who gets what? This issue became more complicated after the West got involved. I can’t see a solution right now.

ShareekaShareeka Hamdani, 21, BSc Microbiology, Rhodes University

Do you think the media tells the Palestine-Israel story properly?
I think the media portrays a one-sided approach with these conflicts. I think the conflict is bad and I might be biased, but looking at it from a humane approach I think it’s very wrong.

What is the solution then, according to you?
Everyone would love to have a one-state solution but the cultures are very different, so two states living in peace with respect would be best. The human rights violations are very wrong. People are looking at this from a political perspective, not from a humanistic approach.

JamesJames Wiehe, Accounting Sciences 4th year, University of Pretoria

Do you care about the Palestine-Israel conflict?
Uhm, I have concerns [about] what is happening in Palestine but I do not watch the news often enough to know exactly what’s happening, but I do recognise the human rights violations and things aren’t too well there. I do not know enough about the Palestinian struggle to…uhm, ya. I don’t know enough.

A few of the installations at Wits University for #IsraeliApartheidWeek 2016
A few of the installations at Wits University for #IsraeliApartheidWeek 2016

firdausFirdaus Cassim, 20, Medicine 4th year, University of Pretoria

Do you give a shit about Palestine?
I give a very big shit about Palestine as it is country to brothers and sisters of my religion, Islam, and they are being oppressed and we would like to help them. The movement is backed by SASCO, PYA and BDS.

Do you see any similarities between #FeesMustFall and the struggle in Palestine?
I hadn’t thought of it before but there is a mirror image between the fight for transformation we are having right now and the transformation in Palestine.

Boitumelo MolefeBoitumelo Molefe, 24, Psychology student, North-West University

What do you know about the Palestine-Israel issue?
I have heard of [the conflict], I think a couple of times on the news but never really paid attention to it. From what I understand, those people live under strict rules from Israel, their country is like on lockdown or something. Which I think is crazy and I know the world is bad and all that but still it’s 2016. If people are going to be subjected to something as bad as what is happening there it shouldn’t be that blunt – not to say [that] if it’s not visible or blunt, it’s okay.

Do you see any similarities between #FeesMustFall and the struggle in Palestine?
I think both situations arise from a common thing – oppression and the refusal to listen sometimes frustrates people. People want to be heard and want to have a say in what goes on in their lives.

Thato Ntsikang 20, Animal Sciences Student, North-West University

Do you see any similarities between #FeesMustFall and the struggle in Palestine?
I really don’t follow these things. I wouldn’t say campus is in any way similar to Palestine. To tell the truth, I didn’t even know there was a thing like that. The only apartheid I know is that of our country – which we no longer live in. I thought it was a South African thing you know – the Middle East conflicts I’ve heard about are mainly about religion and oil, not occupation or colonisation. I didn’t think we [have] much in common with people in the Middle East, that’s why I don’t follow what goes on there that much. But it sounds too serious and big to compare it with what took place here on campus.

ZethembeZethembe Sibiya, 23, Student, Umbilo, Durban University of Technology

Is the issue in Palestine about land, or religion, or what?
The situation between Palestine and Israel is no longer about the land but it seems to have become more personal. It is much similar to what South Africans went through during apartheid. It is rather unfortunate that too much blood has been shed but that doesn’t mean we should shy away from the fact that human beings are being victimised.

Why should South Africans care?
South Africa will never be free until Palestine is free, and as a country, we are one of the countries that can relate to the situation in Palestine. The media should ensure that it leaves no stone unturned when reporting on this issue.

LaeekaLaeeka Edries, 22, student, Chatsworth, Durban University of Technology

Do you care about the Palestine-Israel conflict?
What’s happening in Palestine is not different from what happened in the past here in South Africa. I feel strongly about it because it affects us all, since it is human rights violation.

Many countries boycotted South Africa back then so that we could have the freedom we have today and if those countries could help us fight a winning battle, why don’t we do that for the Palestinians? Such cruelty and intimidation of human beings should be reported; what Israel is doing should be exposed. If we believe in social justice we shouldn’t leave the situation of Palestine lying down.

Candace DiennanCandace Diennan, 21, BA in International Relations, Wits University

Do you care about the Palestine-Israeli story?
Yes, I care definitely about what’s going on. I know it’s quite a struggle. You see it in Wits with Palestine and Israel Week. I think everyone has the right to say which side they are on. But I can understand where you know Israel are saying, “no this is our land” and Palestinians are saying “it’s our land”. I’m interested in what happens. It’s hard when it comes to history because so many people have claims. I care because I think everyone should be represented.

Is there a connection between decolonisation in SA and Palestine struggle?
I do think there’s a connection between decolonisation struggles in SA and the struggles in Palestine because if you see the Israeli state as a coloniser then you’d see Palestine as not being decolonised yet. And I think you know South Africa’s been colonised twice and are we still colonised as not everyone has economic freedom. So I think there is a correlation between colonisation in Palestine just because of the fact there’s a wall.

What about “the wall”?
It’s terrible. It’s actually like the Berlin Wall. And I think when you start putting walls up like that that’s really bad because it’s invading people’s basic human rights.

The separation wall in Palestine
The separation wall in Palestine

Should The Daily Vox be doing a special series on it, right now?
I think it’s very important to do this series and I am so glad that I now know about it so I can read about it. I think it’s really important because it narrates relevant issues and brings it up to the forefront. To narrate this type of week is very valuable.

Candice ChirwaCandice Chirwa, 20, BA General, Wits University

What do you know about the Palestine-Israel story?
So pretty much what I know at the moment about Palestine is from studying International Relations. It seems like there’s a land distribution problem conflict between who owns the land and who doesn’t. And so it just seems like different international parties [and] international states trying to get into this conflict.

Do you care?
I care because I think when there’s an injustice in society one has to step up and call out these injustices.

Is there a connection between decolonisation in SA and Palestine struggle?
I don’t think there’s a connection between the decolonisation struggles in SA and the struggles in Palestine because I haven’t read much about it. I think my only source about it has been the media, unfortunately. So no, I don’t think there’s a connection. If someone could tell me about it I’d be willing to learn.

Should The Daily Vox be doing this series at this point?
I don’t think there’s too much focus on Palestine – you can never have too much focus when people are being excluded from their own nation-state; when people are dying every day. I don’t think it’s too much focus any time. I think a lot of people like me are not aware of the situation. We just have a broad understanding of what it is but we don’t have an actual understanding and we always rely on the media which is never actually a true source. So I think it would be a good series.

Voxes have been edited for brevity and clarity. Reporting and images by Mishka Wazar, Lebo Lebese, Gopolang Botlhokwane, Lizeka Maduna and Fatima Moosa. Report compiled by Dana da Silva.

Featured and additional images by Saffiyah Patel

This is part of a special series called Apartheid 2.0, which The Daily Vox is running this month in partnership with Al Jazeera’s Palestine Remix.