Wits hooligans must be held accountable - SAJBD

David Saks says the disruption of Israeli pianist's recital was a blatant infringement of rights of those who wished to attend it

Wits hooligans must be held accountable, say SA Jewish Board of Deputies

On 12 March 2013, anti-Israel demonstrators brought a recital by Israeli-born pianist Yossi Reshef to a premature end by invading the venue and forcibly disrupting the performance. Unable to defend the disgraceful actions, those responsible and their supporters have since resorted to playing the race card, fabricating atrocity stories and invoking conspiracy theories against the Jewish communal leadership. The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) rejects this despicable tactic with all the contempt it deserves, as will all fair-minded, reasonable South Africans.

Forcibly preventing a University-sanctioned musical event from taking place was a blatant infringement of the rights of those who wished to attend it. Wits University immediately condemned the incident and instituted a formal process of investigation and disciplinary action to address the violation of its Code of Conduct. Eleven Wits students have since been charged with misconduct. In terms of the university's disciplinary procedures, they will be given every opportunity of defending and justifying their actions. If they are able to do so, no action will be taken against them; if not, the University will impose appropriate disciplinary measures against them.

All this is fair and above board. It is the way every civilised, democratic society goes about adjudicating and resolving confrontations, whether between individuals or groups.

According to the Young Communist League of South Africa, however, the Wits investigation is only taking place because the SAJBD, the representative civil rights body of the South African Jewish community, is bringing illegal pressure to bear against the University. This depicts Wits as being nothing more than the tool of powerful Jewish interest groups, rather than as an institution that acts independently to ensure that its own rules are not breached. Such racist conspiracy theories merely show the depths to which anti-Israel extremists are prepared to lower themselves in order to foster hatred and intolerance in this country. The YCL, fearing that the bullies of the Wits Reshef concert will be held accountable for trampling over the right to from freedom of expression of others, are looking for scape-goats to blame for their thuggish behaviour.

The SAJBD commends Wits University on the responsible manner in which it is dealing with this incident. The YCL and like-minded groupings, rather than engaging in finger-pointing hate rhetoric and transparent attempts to divert attention from the real issues, should have the decency to allow the Wits disciplinary hearing to take its course.

Statement issued by David Saks, Associate Director SAJBD, May 9 2013

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