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Wits Concert Spurs Debate Between Professor Habib and BDS

Sep 05, 2013

 

Faizel Patel, Radio Islam News – 2013-09-05

 

The Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee (Wits PSC) and Boycott Divestment Sanction (BDS) South Africa made two audio recordings which highlight evidence of ethnic racial profiling and background checking practice by pro Israeli organisations in South Africa. These include the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), The South African Zionist Federation (SAZF) and the Community Security Organisation (CSO).

The issue relates to a concert by Daniel Zamir that took place at Wits on the 28th August.

In a statement released by the BDS, it said that In the audio recordings the Beyachad which is the head quarters of the two pro-Israeli organistions admit they bought out the entire Israeli concert at Wits, in order to resell the tickets; and make a use of their own background checks when reselling the tickets so as to try and keep the concert a Jewish only event.

Ironically the concert was advertised by the organisation as an open event to the general public, according to the statement.

The statement also highlights that the concert of Daniel Zamir comes five months after another concert (Yossi Reshef) at Wits in March which was protested against by members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO), the Muslim Student Association (MSA) and other organisations and subsequently cancelled. However newly elected vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib offered a replacement event to the pro-Israeli organisers.

Speaking to Radio Islam’s Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat, Mohammad Desai from BDS accused Professor Habib of offering an apology to the Israeli organisers before giving the protestors a hearing. “Like wise here now when there is evidence of racial profiling and racism essentially being practiced by these Israeli organisations at a public institution there has been no apology from the vice chancellor; there’s been no condemnation by the vice chancellor,” said Desai.

In the statement by the BDS, Desai regards a quote by Zev Krengel, the president of the SAJBD as absurd. Krengel is quoted as saying, “the two people recorded in the audio tapes made available by BDS South Africa has simply miss understood what the brief was from the SAJBD. “If they misinterpreted the brief, than what was the brief? I can’t understand how someone can misunderstand a brief so much that they make this here into a racist event,” said Desai.

Professor Habib told Moulana Ravat that the apology to the Israeli organiser and a replacement concert was not offered by him, but rather by his predecessor Loyiso Nongxa. “What was offered was that in the event, because there had been a violation of rights of individuals, we have said we would like to re-host it and, the organisers in the music department said they couldn’t, the guy didn’t want to come back and they said what if we find another group and we said yes we will honour it and we’ll try and honour the tickets,” said Professor Habib.

Desai said he had en email in his possession dated 13th March at 05:10am in which it is claimed that Professor Habib sent a personal apology to Professor Zaidal-Rudolph, a Wits University lecturer, calling the protest totally unacceptable and how an offer could be made for a replacement concert; there was no recognition at that stage that rights of protestors could have been violated; there was no action by Professor Habib to consult with the students who were part of that protest.

The vice chancellor was furious saying that it’s very dangerous when representatives from the BDS manipulate information which is a loss of integrity. “I understand the issue of mobilization, but when you deliberately use words to mislead the public, it loses your course and sense of integrity,” added Professor Habib.

Professor Habib explained that that first apology was issued by Loyiso (Nongxa)  and it was made in his capacity as vice chancellor of Wits. “We have subsequently engaged in a series of investigations that suggest that there were violation of rights; there was the destruction of property and those 11 individuals that were implicated in that have been charged,” he said.

“We have set up an independent process of enquiry; an independent disciplinary hearing to enable that to happen. I have said at senate meetings that if there are anybody else whose rights were abused, that will be investigated and we'll take that up. Then there’s that of the BDS or the Student Representative Council (SRC),  they were asked to lay a charge at the legal office, they did not do so,” added Professor Habib.

“Subsequently I asked the Academic Freedom Committee in the senate to investigate the matter and should they find that violation of rights had happened, we will investigate. So it’s important when you mobilize that you do so by providing all of the story, not by manipulating words, or e-mails and quoting selectively from them and creating misleading impressions. And that’s become the practice of people like Mohammad Desai, because they are so driven by the issue that they forget a sense of integrity that is needed in any human rights struggle. ” reiterated Professor Habib.

Desai’s maintained his stance that Professor Habib has given his mandate and failed to condemned racial profiling and acts of racism. He said Professor Habib has the possibility to disinvite certain events and certain organisations from his campus according to Wits University own Budlener report from 2009… “It seems Professor Habib doesn’t think that the work of the Zionist team and Zionist Federation… is contrary to Wits’ values or to his own values,” said Desai.

Professor Habib emphasizes “My responsibility as vice chancellor is to protect the free expression of ideas. That’s my responsibility. Whatever my personal views and that’s the mandate I have from the constitution and the higher education act,” said Professor Habib.

“Mohammad has the luxury of having being a one issue protestor. I have the responsibility of vice chancellot to represent the view of students, 30,000 of them. To represent alumni, to represent the academic staff and to protect all them and that sometimes what some of them want is against what others want and I have to act and mediate in those tensions and act in the broader interests of our constitution in this country.

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