South African university hosts pro-Palestinian encampment

6 days ago
South African university hosts pro-Palestinian encampment

On Monday, a pro-Palestinian encampment was set up at a South African university, adding to the growing student movement against Israel’s conflict in Gaza that is now resonating globally.

Situated in the heart of Johannesburg, the camp and “liberated zone” can be found on the picturesque lawns outside the iconic Great Hall of the University of the Witwatersrand, fondly referred to as Wits.

Taking a cue from the initial encampments established in the US on 17 April, students are spearheading a protest calling for a Gaza ceasefire and the divestment from Israel-affiliated companies.

Pro-Palestinian protests have since spread around the globe.

“We do this in solidarity with like-minded individuals all over the world – ordinary people who have become extraordinary because the situation in Gaza and on the occupied West Bank commands us to,” a press release from the organisers said.

“We will not stand by while the Apartheid regime of Israel, aided and abetted by the West, slaughters the people of Palestine in a malevolent and sanctioned act of genocide. Equally, we will not allow our beloved institution to be co-opted and exploited by Israel, or to benefit Israel in any way,” it added.

“We also acknowledge inequalities caused by our own legacy of apartheid and acknowledge the connection between many of our own students’ struggles and those of Palestinian students.”

The press release about the protest said the Wits University Palestine Action Committee and other groups and individuals handed the institution’s management a letter at the Great Hall on 7 May.

Their demands include full disclosure and access to information regarding Wits University investments and collaborations with “apartheid Israel-aligned institutions and companies” and adopting a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) stance concerning procurement, investments, and collaborations.

“Our encampment underscores the commitment we have to these demands,” the press release said.

The Palestinian-led BDS movement seeks to apply international pressure on Israel through economic, academic, and cultural boycotts.

South Africa has taken Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, alleging “genocidal acts” in Gaza.

The ICJ found in January that there was a plausible risk that Israel was violating the UN Genocide Convention.

The court will hold hearings on Thursday and Friday after South Africa requested it order provisional measures additional to the ones it imposed in January and March.

Israel’s war on Gaza has so far killed at least 35,173 Palestinians, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Israel has also been accused by Amnesty International and other rights group of engaging in apartheid against Palestinians.

South Africa was also governed by an apartheid system in which the minority white population dominated other racial groups, especially the Black community, from 1948 to 1994.



Wits University’s communications team said some of the issues mentioned in a request for comment sent by The New Arab would be discussed by the academic institution’s senate at a Thursday meeting, after which the university may issue a statement.