The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel and Palestinian Youth Against Israeli Apartheid have issued a call to their counterparts in South Africa to boycott a forthcoming tour of several South African university campuses by dozens of Israeli students designed to burnish Israel’s image. The Palestinian students write:
Just as students around the world throughout the 80’s were banning Barclays bank from campuses for their investment in Apartheid, we call on you now to stand courageously again by boycotting the Israeli “What is Real” tour. Apartheid was wrong for you; it is wrong for us.
Following the tour to South Africa, the Israeli “public diplomacy” group plans similar tours in Canada and the United States.
Here is the full statement from the Palestinian students:
An Open letter from Palestinian Students to Their Peers in South Africa:
“What is Real Tour:” Whitewash of Israeli Apartheid and War Crimes!
The Palestinian Student’s Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) and Palestinian Youth Against Israeli Apartheid (PYAIA) were alarmed by reports about plans by Israeli students to visit South African universities in an attempt to “improve their country’s [tarnished] image.”
We urge our South African peers to boycott and challenge this intended tour of South African universities in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, which we view as a part of a campaign launched to whitewash the crimes of Israel’s apartheid policies.
The very fact they are visiting you reaffirms for so many Palestinians what we cannot do, where especially here in Gaza, Israel’s medieval blockade of all our borders deprives us of one of many of the most basic human rights — movement outside of the strip.
Our spirits have been lifted by the support and empathy shown to us by so many in South Africa, especially in recent times from students and academics. The rising worldwide boycott of the Israeli apartheid regime is constantly challenged by Israeli hasbara – a propaganda machine aiming to present Israel as a civilized, modern country where all live equally!
When endorsing the successful boycott and ending of ties between the University of Johannesburg and Ben Gurion University (BGU) this year, the first of its kind, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli Defense Forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.”
This we have experienced every day of our life only because it has taken too long for the world to see through the web of deceit; Israel’s propaganda machine that has demonized us as terrorists, the same way Nelson Mandela was!
This tour of Israeli youth, in which the organisers and members include aides to members of the Knesset Aryeh Eidad and Ilan Golan, do not appear to have found it difficult to fundraise for their trip. The entire political establishment in Israel is attempting similar methods of “re-branding” Israel away from a regime that has done nothing but expand occupation and ethnically cleanse Palestinians for the last 63 years.
According to the group the tour aims to “create doubt in [South African students’] minds.” Such diversionary tactics bear the hallmarks of the infamous South African “Department of Informatio” ’ exposed in “Muldergate.”
The Israeli public relations machine, the modern day equivalent, brands Israeli massacres on Palestinians in Gaza as “wars.” When the Israeli navy shot dead at point blank range nine Turkish human rights activists attempting to break the siege and reach Gaza by sea they told the world it was “self defence.” Two United Nations reports called them “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity.”
Black South Africans and other anti-apartheid heroes have been the first to recognize our treatment as sub-standard human beings, subjugated and displaced, confined to “independent homelands”. Here in the Gaza Bantustan, over two thirds of the 1.5 million population are United Nations registered refugees, violently forced out of our homes and lands by the Israeli apartheid regime, reminiscent of your own “forced removal.” Over half of us are children. We are kept in this prison and denied our legal right of return because we are the wrong “ethno-religious group.”
This was recognized by the South African prime minister and architect of the “grand apartheid” vision. In 1961, Hendrik Verwoerd, said, “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” Israel even provided arms to the apartheid South African regime even when most Western countries had officially agreed to sanctions.
The Sharpeville massacre of 1960 was the moment the world could no longer ignore South African apartheid. Our Sharpeville was the Gaza massacre of 2009 during which over 1,400 people, mostly civilians including hundreds of children were killed in Israel’s brutal bombing, shelling and invasion of the Gaza Strip.
Never in the history of South Africa did the Apartheid regime use F-15 and F-16 aircraft, Apache helicopters and phosphorus bombs to attack townships. This is Israel’s modus operandi in occupied Palestine!
Like in South Africa many courageous acts of resistance in Palestine came from the youth and students. It was the uprising of students from the Township of Soweto in 1976-1980 that reinvigorated the anti-apartheid movement. For decades our students and youth have looked straight ahead at the same possible fate on such marches, most recently on 15 May 2011 when thousands of predominantly Palestinian students and youth commemorated Nakba day, walking calmly from their refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank towards the sites of their emptied villages and towns. Israeli troops opened fired directly at us, killing 14 and wounding hundreds more.
As resistance grew and the world boycotted South Africa’s ugly apartheid regime until it fell in 1994, yet apartheid against Palestinians since then has only become more entrenched. It prompted the South African former United Nations Special Rapporteur John Dugard to denounce Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians as the only remaining case after South Africa, “of a Western-affiliated regime that denies self-determination and human rights to a developing people and that has done so for so long.”
There was no negotiating with such oppression based on race – there was only one word: BOYCOTT. Just as students around the world throughout the 80’s were banning Barclays bank from campuses for their investment in Apartheid, we call on you now to stand courageously again by boycotting the Israeli “What is Real” tour. Apartheid was wrong for you; it is wrong for us.
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Palestinian Youth Against Israeli Apartheid