Israel and their policies regarding Palestine, and the occupation of Palestinian land, are quickly becoming efficient tools in the fight against that very oppression. So says Josh Budlender, spokesperson for the University of Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF). After delivering a speech on the Israeli-Palestine issue on UCT’s Jameson Plaza as part of the campus’s Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) events, Budlender said Israel is proving to be its own worst enemy. Hundreds of students gathered on the main square, carrying plackards and Palestinian flags, with harsh words being traded with Zionist supporters from the SA Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS).
“The oppression and the policies of the Israeli government have become a great mobilising force for us; because they make it so clear the oppression, the Apartheid policies and the colonialism that they perpetrate. Last year during the [Gaza] war, our events were packed, everyone was fired up, and that feeling has followed through into this year, because the Israeli government has since then even made their policies even clearer.”
But despite the strength of the international solidarity campaign, Budlender believes more must always be done to spread awareness and bring more people into the fold of being aware of the plight of the Palestinian people. He says often solidarity campaigns slow down their efforts when there are no events taking place, like IAW.
“It is … on us, we should do more events even when there aren’t bigger things happening. But when we do have events people come, we have this great history and support of Muslim students in solidarity with Palestine, the ANC coalition and lots of independent people that are aware of what’s happening, support us,” Budlender said.
Thursday’s rally called on UCT to cut ties with Israeli security firm, G4S. The global security company is accused of being complicit in human rights violations in Palestine as it is alleged that G4S provides Israel with surveillance equipment at its checkpoints in the occupied territories. UCT students handed out flyers to other UCT students, in a bit to raise awareness to the current situation. A memorandum was also handed over to UCT’s Council representative.
On Thursday at 6pm, Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi will address students on the ‘lessons from the struggle’ at Jameson Hall.
Budlender said despite the growing support on campus, because of an historic tradition of Zionist support at UCT, in its staff and students, the solidarity campaign does experience some obstacles in spreading the message.
“There are staff members who have an issue with us, and we butt heads, but the faculty of student affairs that runs IAW here, treats us fairly. They say they deal with us and the Zionist sympathisers with an even hand: we think that is wrong when it comes to this issue.” VOC