Condemning Wits anti-Semitism isn’t enough – there must be consequences

The response to the open display of anti-Semitism at Wits on Thursday severely lacked conviction.

Student groups condemn goose-step, Hitler salute at Wits

While the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), Amnesty International Wits, and the Wits Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) released a joint statement “unequivocally and unconditionally” condemning the incident – this is not enough. Even the promise of hauling the student in front of an MSA disciplinary committee next week is not enough. And the fact that they’re only “considering” opening a case against him to the Human Rights Commission is honestly a bloody joke.

What exactly is there to “consider”?

The person in question openly and unashamedly imitated a Nazi in the presence of numerous Jewish people. And we must emphasise the “open and unashamedly” part because it’s not like he was trying to hide anything. The act was seemingly casual enough for him that he felt it okay without fear of possible consequence.

This needs to be reflected upon. It means that on some level he either didn’t care, was utterly ignorant of or purposely decided to use a history of genocide and ethnic cleansing to throw in people’s faces.

People stand against Zionism because it systematically oppresses, marginalises and violently dehumanises a nation of people. South Africans stand in solidarity with this because of how intimately we understand these injustices. We know colonialism, we know racial profiling, we’ve lived apartheid; we still bear the brunt of their legacies today.

Trivialising the very same kind of atrocities we claim to be fighting against calls into question what our real issue with Israeli apartheid is. Is it the fact that oppression itself is categorically wrong – or does whom the oppression is directed at affect our interest in it?

We need to check ourselves.

And if one person felt okay with doing this, there are no doubt others. Thus, there must be consequences – an example needs to be made.

It is, of course, unclear whether the person in question is representative of the vast majority of anti-Zionists. He was part of the MSA (it has since revoked his membership), but it would also be fallacious to assume he speaks for the organisation.

Irrespective of this, if the parties and groups fighting against Israeli apartheid intend to stand by the integrity of their cause, they should see to it that this scourge of hypocritical bigotry is dealt with with the utmost impunity.

Academic Vashna Jagarnath says anti-Semitic acts play into the hands of Zionists. “The repeated anti-Semitic acts during and around their [BDS-SA’s] campaigns are both disgusting in themselves and … a gift to the Zionist forces,” because it opens doors to and enables an argument of anti-Zionism being anti-Jewish.

When Frantz Fanon spoke of decolonisation, he meant more than just our understanding of racism.

“Anti-Semitism hits me on the head: I am enraged, I am bled white by an appalling battle, I am deprived of the possibility of being man. I cannot disassociate myself from the future that is proposed for my brother,” he said.

This is Penny Sparrow. It is queer discrimination. It is equating “terrorism” with Islam. It is blackface. It is calling people “makwerekwere”. It is a single representation of how easily we harm each other. And ALL of it is unacceptable.

Featured image via PSC Wits
  1. ThisIsSadlyNormal says

    You write good articles dude, I feel like hopefully you have the guts enough to confront the reality of the situation that the vast majority of Muslims against Israel don’t care so much about general human rights, but the Us VS. Them mentality of Muslims VS Jews that the Israel / Palestine conflict raises. This guys attitude IS the norm, most just have the sense not to show it so brazenly.

    Address this one question: if the majority Palestinians were a bunch of black Christians would our local Muslim community care as much about their plight? I think you already know the answer. It’s less about people suffering and more about people suffering who look like us and believe in the same religion. It’s belief with CONDITIONS, and it feels empty. I want to be more involved in supporting the plight of the Palestinians but it feels like I’m fighting someones proxy religious war. All these Muslim organisations have practically fuck all to say about black bodies in our own country suffering but have all the energy and effort to lament brown bodies on the other side of the world.

    There is large anti-blackness in coloured / indian Muslim communities here, again you know this, and as much as we need to address Apartheid Israel and it’s horrendous actions, the local Muslim support here just feels fucky, fake and deeply entrenched in religious identity politics.

  2. Actionlouderthanwords says

    The MSC and PSF invited the MRN to speak and tweeted it like 5 mins after they tweeted the statement condoning anti Semitism. The MRN which is openly supported by the shockingly Patriachal Saudi Arabia. The same MRN that published Holocaust denial articles. The same MRN whose main Author tweeted that all Jews are dogs but that non Zionist ones are “fluffy dogs”.

    This statement also included condoning homophobia and misogyny whilst members of PSF and MSC carried Hezbollah flag, invited MRN and wore Hammas merchandise a week after Pride. On Women’s day. This statement thus means nothing and is an insult to LGBTQ, feminits and Jews.

  3. Youdontdefinezionism says

    What the writer of this article said of Zionism is quite close to what white people said about Pan Africanists. Zionism has and is the self determination of the Jewish people(an ethno religion). This movenent is very close to Black conciousness and indeed a lot of Black conciousness writers and leaders(eg Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Du Bois) identified as strong Zionism. To say “It is the reason for displacement of people” is completely false. We know that the main reason why people left during the Al Nakba was because there was a war which was started because Arab forces were not happy with 1947 partition plan. Also because Arabs told them to leave.

    Bizzarely I have heard a lot of people tell me that there was “peace before the Zionists showed up” also not. It was colonized by Romans who kicked Jews out and then by Ottomans who made Jews and Christians pay taxes and built mosques OVER Jewish sites. To say such statements is effectively saying “why were you not happy being a second class citizen”.

    I appreciate that the writer was trying to show problems with the movement but what he says is provlematic for so many reasons.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.