The Wits Student Representative Council (SRC) is demanding an investigation into racial profiling, violence against students, external security and a boycott of Israel. This follows a protest by student activists, in support of Palestine, against a scheduled performance of Israeli musician Yossi Reshef on 12 March.
Pro-Israeli supporters, including Reshef and Wits University professor Zaidel Rudolph, retorted by calling the students “barbaric”, “hooligans” and “Muslim agitators”. The Wits SRC wants a full investigation into the matter and also a report on what ensued on 12 March.
The SRC wants the university to launch an investigation into “incidents of physical violence and assault against Wits University students by organisers of the pro-Israeli event; external security being used by the organisers of the pro- Israeli event on their campus (in violation of Wits’ University practice and recommendation); the response by Wits University Management to student requests prior to the event as well as conduct of the Wits University Management to the actual protest and cancellation of the pro-Israeli event.”
It is alleged that on the day of the concert, a black Muslim student, who had a valid ticket, was denied entry into the concert venue by pro-Israeli supporters. Moreover, students who protested inside the concert venue were “dragged on the ground, pushed against walls and sexually assaulted by the Israeli concert goers, their private security members as well as by one Wits University staff member,” a statement by the SRC revealed.
According to the statement, they continued to hurl racial and verbal insults at the student protesters such as “you monkeys go back to the jungle”. The Wits SRC has demanded a full investigation into the organisers and concert-goers’ conduct and for assault charges to be laid with the police.
Tasneem Essop, Wits SRC secretary general, said, “Rather than investigating the racism, violence and misconduct by the hosts of the Israeli concert at Wits, the Wits University Management has indicated that it wishes to punish the Wits students for their protest. This is regrettable as it chills Freedom of Expression. Wits University has an obligation to protect student rights to free speech, protest and others forms of expression. The Wits University also has the obligation to protect students from racist speech and violence.”
The SRC insists that their university should not allow the Israeli embassy or its supporters to host events on their campus due to their disrespect and disregard of Wits’s practice and protocol.