|The News Line: Feature
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
South African teachers endorse Israeli Apartheid Week
THE South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) endorses the Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) taking place from 6th-12th March, 2017.
The week focuses on Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, particularly women and children, who are incarcerated under extremely appalling conditions with beatings, insults, threats, sexually explicit harassment and sexual violence, and humiliation at the hands of the Israeli security system.
SADTU said: ‘Our support for the struggle of the people of Palestine stems from the parallels drawn between Israel and the apartheid system as it existed in South Africa. It is in this regard that our stalwart and icon, former South African President Nelson Mandela asserted; “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
‘SADTU believes that the teaching of history is of importance in our school curriculum and should be made a compulsory subject. SADTU will therefore be actively participating in programmes aimed at highlighting the continued oppression and the predicament of Palestinians by providing learning materials, to this effect, to pupils through the members of our union.
‘This is the key principle we seek to amplify and build public awareness by always raising it. We call upon all our members and their families to participate in the IAW activities arranged by the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) and reaffirm the unshaken commitment to our leader, Comrade Nelson Mandela’s maxim that the cause of the Palestinian people is our cause too.’
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) is also in support of the 13th Israeli Apartheid Week, which is aimed at raising the much-needed awareness about the continued treatment Palestinians suffer under the suppression of the apartheid Israeli state. POPCRU said: ‘In 2016 alone, almost 7,000 violations on Palestinians, their land and their properties by Israel were recorded, amounting to about 18 abuses every single day.
‘Further, about 150 Palestinians have been killed in the last year, ranging from a baby of several months to an old man of 85 years. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers continue to encroach on Palestinian land with the support of their government, therefore increasing obstacles for peace.
‘We want to categorically call on our government and the South African Police Services (SAPS) management to cut ties with any businesses of Apartheid Israel origin, precisely those doing their business in the forcefully occupied territories of Palestine. POPCRU leaders and structures will be attending the various IAW activities arranged across the country.’
Meanwhile, The Electronic Intifada reports that a senior officer in Britain’s National Union of Students has been censured for his role in a pro-Israel propaganda scandal. Last week, the union’s executive council voted that Richard Brooks had ‘violated democratic procedures of accountability.’
Brooks, a vice president of the union, featured in January’s Al Jazeera documentary on Britain’s pro-Israel lobby. Undercover footage showed Brooks plotting to oust Malia Bouattia, the union’s overall president and a supporter of Palestinian rights. Brooks made his comments to a reporter, who had been posing as a youth activist with connections to Israel’s embassy in London.
In a motion that council members said passed by 15 votes to 13 last Monday, the union said it was unacceptable for a vice president ‘to discuss the undermining of a democratically elected officer with a student introduced by an embassy and therefore by a foreign government.’
The union represents more than seven million students in the UK. According to the NUS rulebook, a censure is a rebuke short of a full no-confidence vote at a union conference – which could remove an officer from their position.
In a separate motion, that passed by 16 votes to 13, the union executive reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and condemned recent participation by some elected union officers in propaganda trips to Israel.
Shakira Martin, another vice-president, went on a trip to Israel organised by the Union of Jewish Students in January. The UJS is a pro-Israel organisation which receives funding from the Israeli government. A statement signed by Palestinian student groups said such trips serve to ‘whitewash Israeli crimes and decades-long oppression of our people’ and give ‘a one-sided, pro-apartheid vision of our reality here in Palestine.’
Martin’s attendance on the trip was surprising given that she had previously stated her support for peace and justice in Palestine and for the BDS movement. Angela Alexander, women’s officer for the National Union of Students Scotland, joined the same trip. And Richard Brooks was shown discussing having participated in a previous trip in the Al Jazeera documentary.
The motion passed last Monday asserts that: ‘International solidarity with a people should be rooted in a principled position of respect for human rights and dignity and against oppression and should not be swayed by full-expense-paid trips.’ Martin is the union’s vice president for further education.
More than 200 further education students signed a letter condemning her attendance on the trip.
The National Union of Students has held a position in support of the BDS movement for several years. More than 25 individual student unions at universities across the UK have also voted to support the BDS.
BDS campaigns have persuaded a number of universities to cancel contracts with companies that are complicit with Israeli violations of international law such as Eden Springs, G4S and Veolia, which sold its Israeli business as a result of a years-long BDS campaign. Shelly Asquith, another of the union’s vice presidents, said she was pleased that the union’s support for the BDS movement had been reaffirmed.
‘At a time when students’ rights to organise on this issue are increasingly being undermined through programmes such as the Prevent agenda, it feels particularly important to re-assert our position,’ Asquith told The Electronic Intifada. Prevent is a British government programme ostensibly designed to stop young people from becoming involved in ‘terrorism’.
Since it was introduced to British schools and universities, police have deemed the reading of literature sympathetic to the Palestinians as evidence of holding ‘terrorist-like’ views. The UK government, universities and pro-Israel groups are currently seeking to restrict freedom of speech in order to protect Israel from criticism.
Last week, management at both the University College London and the University of Central Lancashire withdrew permission for events planned for Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual series of events held by the Palestine solidarity movement. However, Israeli Apartheid Week events organised by students at both universities are still taking place, as are events at more than 30 other campuses across the UK.
More than 200 people attended an opening event for Israeli Apartheid Week in London last Tuesday. The event featured Farid Esack, a South African academic and anti-apartheid activist and Aja Monet, a spoken word artist and human rights advocate from the US. Attempts to stifle pro-Palestine activism represent a serious attack on freedom of speech. But they are simply failing to deter students from taking principled action in support of Palestinians and their struggle for liberation.
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