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Pandor urges intensified South African university activism against Israel

Pandor urges intensified South African university activism against Israel
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Naledi Pandor. (Photo: Gallo Images / Daily Maverick / Victoria O'Regan)

South Africa’s institutions of higher learning had a special responsibility to show solidarity with Palestine because of SA’s history, the Dirco minister said.

International  Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor has called for greater university and student activism and boycotts against Israel for what she called its “scholasticide” in Gaza — “the systemic obliteration of education”.

She was delivering the second annual Shireen Abu Akleh Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday. Abu Akleh was an Al Jazeera journalist who was shot dead by Israeli soldiers while reporting in the West Bank two years ago. Most Palestinians and their supporters believe it was an assassination, though Israel says it was an accident.

pandor universities israel

Naledi Pandor addresses the second annual Shireen Abu Akleh Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday. (Photo: Dirco)

“If Shireen were alive today, she would have been in the trenches in Gaza, reporting day and night on the atrocities taking place in the hopes that the world would take notice and show their solidarity with the Palestinian people,” Pandor said.

The theme of her lecture was “The Responsibility of the Academy in a Time of Genocide”, and Pandor said the UN Human Rights Office had on 18 April raised serious alarm about the systematic destruction of the Palestinian education system.

“The report states that ‘with more than 80% of schools in Gaza damaged or destroyed, it may be reasonable to ask if there is an intentional effort to comprehensively destroy the Palestinian education system, an action known as ‘scholasticide’ — the systemic obliteration of education through the arrest, detention or killing of teachers, students and staff, and the destruction of educational infrastructure’.”

Pandor said after six months of Israel’s military assault, more than 5,479 students, 261 teachers and 95 university professors had been killed in Gaza, and more than 7,819 students and 756 teachers had been injured.

“At least 60% of educational facilities, including 13 public libraries, have been damaged or destroyed and at least 625,000 primary and secondary school students and over 100,000 college and university students in Gaza have no access to education.

“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has damaged or destroyed nine out of every 10 schools… Between October 2023 and January this year, the IDF bombed all the universities in Gaza,” Pandor said. 

“Consequently, Gaza’s treasured intellectual landmarks, including the Islamic University of Gaza, the North Gaza and Tubas branches of Al-Quds Open University, and Palestine Technical University have all been destroyed.

“Another 195 heritage sites, 227 mosques and three churches have also been damaged or destroyed, including the Central Archives of Gaza, containing 150 years of history. Israa University, the last remaining university in Gaza was demolished by the Israeli military on January 17th this year.”

A clear message

Pandor said, “The international academic community should have sent a clear message that those who target schools and universities in other states will be held responsible. And that accountability for these violations will include an end to collaboration, an end to donations, an end to financial support. 

“My expectation is after our talk you will become activists,” she added. “As educators, advocates, activists, civil society and state structures, we should all play a role in the global struggle in search of truth and justice.

“It is our collective responsibility to raise our voices in solidarity with the people of Palestine who are fighting for their survival in the midst of the genocidal campaign being waged against them.”

Pandor said South Africa’s institutions of higher learning had a special responsibility to show solidarity with Palestine because of this country’s history.

She noted that in November last year, more than 1,000 individuals connected to higher education in South Africa had signed an open letter of solidarity with Palestine and had called on Universities South Africa and the Academy of Science of South Africa to do the same.

The University of Cape Town (UCT) and the University of the Western Cape had made official statements calling for a ceasefire and immediate humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

“The UCT Senate has resolved that no UCT academic should collaborate with any academic on any research project if they are identified with the Israel Defense Forces.

“The majority in the Senate voted in favour of supporting Palestinian academics and the right to have debates on Zionism without being accused of anti-Semitism. Stellenbosch University Senate members have called for an end to the brutal and barbaric destruction of Gaza saying that, ‘no crimes can justify genocidal actions in retaliation’.

“Unfortunately the Senate did not pass a resolution on the Israel-Palestine crisis on the ‘Genocide and Destruction of Scholarship and Education in Gaza’, as it was not agreed to by the majority of Senate members.”

Pandor applauded Fort Hare for taking one of the strongest stands, including a commitment not to pursue any institutional links with Israeli institutions complicit in “supporting settler colonial oppression and apartheid and in grave violations of human rights, including developing weaponry, military doctrines and legal justification for the indiscriminate mass targeting of Palestinians”.

Pandor said Fort Hare needed to be joined by other more powerful SA universities in taking such a strong stand. 

Greater activism

“We are also buoyed by the growing mobilisation on college campuses across the world in support of the just cause for freedom and justice of the people of Palestine.” 

She noted that New York’s Columbia University had been the locus of these protests and had also been the first US university to divest from apartheid South Africa. 

“We hope that this unprecedented activism by students in the US will also spur greater activism among student movements here in South Africa, and spur more vocal support from our university administrators, some of whom have remained silent,” Pandor said.

kasrils univerisities israel

 Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils at the second annual Shireen Abu Akleh Memorial Lecture at the University of Johannesburg on Wednesday. (Photo: Dirco)

Former Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils praised the University of Johannesburg for what it was doing for Palestine.

Palestinian-Canadian lawyer, activist and former peace negotiator Diana Buttu, participating in the event by video, praised the SA government for taking Israel to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on genocide charges earlier this year.

She said Shireen Abu Akleh had been an “excellent reporter” and a “beloved friend to me and hundreds of others”.

“Shireen’s assassination was not done in a vacuum. It was the result of years of Israel targeting journalists, and in particular, targeting Al Jazeera journalists.” She said Israel had bombed the offices of the AP news agency and Al Jazeera in the Gaza Strip.  

Since the current conflict began on 7 October 2023 following a Hamas attack on Israel that left about 1200 people dead, “Israel has killed over 140 Palestinian journalists. “So they’ve done this for a deliberate reason, which is that Israel wants to make sure that you don’t see what’s happening, because I firmly believe that once you see, you cannot unsee.”

If Abu Akleh were alive she would have exposed many stories about the war which the Western media had got wrong, in part because “they have been complicit in this genocide”. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tothe Point says:

    Pandor cannot be neutral as she is a Muslim. In any event she should know that there is more than enough student unrest at our universities without inciting more. She knows full well that the “activism” she is encouraging will lead to violence which has become all to common at these institutions. This is a very reckless suggestion from Pandor. Why does she not encourage activism in support of Ukraine, Sudan, etc?

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    What a wayward, odious and hypocritical piece of rubbish this obnoxious individual is, along with that other bag of hot toxic air, Kasrils. Biased, blind and only sees one side of the conflict. Keeps on hammering the ICC statement on Israel but conveniently, deliberately and maliciously ignores the other statement that doesn’t fit with her nefarious machinations ie release the hostages.

  • Denise Smit says:

    No how does this actually work? Pando phones the Rectors of the Universities and orders them to order their students to start rioting against Israel . What an example by the Minister for young people to solve problems

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Obviously Denise you never experienced being in a situation when someone decides where you must live,eat, or move and worse decide how long you must live, right now Israel has decided the Palestinians must stop living.
      How do you them blame the person who is saying this is wrong?
      You should be angry at your self for swallowing the Israel propaganda to a point where wrong things are normal to you.
      Hamas was created by the prime minister Benjamin to render the PA useless.
      It is a documented fact that money in suitcases was paid in cash to Hamas via Egypt by the Israel government.
      Hamas got into power and turned against the Israel government.
      I hope you clearly know what you are supporting here.

  • Mr OK says:

    Instead of promoting dialogue and mending fences through diplomacy, Pandor and her ANC cohorts are actively calling for violent protest. Why on earth would she actually want further anarchy in our universities? Shameful behaviour from a government representative in our supposed rainbow nation. Our Foreign policy is a confusing diplomatic mess and she is responsible for fostering division and hatred amongst our citizens as opposed to peace, dialogue and security.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Oh the irony! She wants to protest “the systemic obliteration of education”, perhaps she should invite them to tutoring sessions from the anc seeing as they are experts at obliterating education and have done so completely here in SA

  • John Shaw says:

    Israel, a terrorist state!
    The flaw in the legitimacy of Israel is that it was created by the west without regard for the people of Palestine. Palestine was a British administered territory from 1917. Sometime thereafter a British politician by the name of Lord Balfour produced a document encouraging the creation of a Jewish State it became known as the Balfour Doctrine. In 1947 after the holocaust, The League of Nations/United Nations encouraged by the USA and Britain created Israel by dividing up Palestine into a section for the Jews and a section for the Palestinians. Both Jews and Palestinians lived in Palestine, the Palestinians were in the majority. The Palestinians and the Arab world rejected the division outright. The future of Palestine could only be decided by the Palestinian people.
    Many wars have been fought and millions of people have been displaced, killed, starved to death, or denied medical attention at the hands of the Jews occupying Palestine. On day one in 1948 the Jews displaced 750 000 from their homes in the new Israel. The Jews occupying Palestine have brutally abused the Palestinians for 75 years. These are crimes against humanity. They have done this by dehumanising the Palestinians, these constructs made it easy to slaughter 25000 women and children, almost a journalist a day and describe it as being ‘caught in the crossfire’. This is in the short period from October 7 23. The Jews have in the process dehumanised themselves. They have lost their humanity, their souls; they no longer have moral integrity and are no longer behaving like human beings. Evidence supports the claims that the Jews are starving the Palestinians by frustrating aid into Gaza. They are also denying them medical attention by destroying hospitals and other medical facilities. Killing Aid workers is strategic, demolishing medical facilities is strategic and especially killing journalists is strategic. No aid workers, no aid, no health facilities, no medical attention, no Palestinians! The IDF members slaughter anybody and everybody they come into contact with, including unarmed young children, old people, women, health workers, aid workers and their response is a social media celebration. These are commonly known as war crimes.
    The Israelis have destroyed cultural sites, archives, education sites, medical facilities and homes, the evidence supports genocide. In addition, they are building settlements in Palestinian territory notwithstanding many UN resolutions declaring them illegal. The Jews now occupy the whole of Palestine.
    Recently an old Jewish person wrote ‘we were the victims now we are the perpetrators’, what he did not speak about was the past 75 years where the USA, the UK, their European allies together with the Israeli propaganda machine, the Jews around the world and the Western media have provided cover for all the atrocities committed by Israel. The propaganda machine attacks everybody that is not pro-Israel. The attacks are relentless, truth is not important. The evidence hardly ever supports Israel’s version of events. The Israeli Knesset recently passed a law enabling the banning of media regarded a security risk to Israel, Al Jazeera is the first to be banned. Al Jazeera is the most credible media channel covering the Middle East. Truth is always discredited by Israel. The UN is often in the firing line, they know too much about what happens in the occupied territories. The Israeli propaganda machine demonises any persons or entities that share truth. Israel sounds a lot like North Korea, unhinged and isolated.
    We all wonder why the USA and their allies unconditionally support Israel, why Israel is never held accountable. Israel has been described as ‘lawless’ by legal scholars, as in criminal. The US is providing the bombs and ammunition that are used to slaughter the Palestinians. Israel is their frontman in the Middle East, there is more US military hardware in Israel including nuclear than anywhere in the world. The USA has provided hundreds of billions of dollars in support of Israel over the years. There are a lot of Jews in the USA, and all have a vote. This is about politics not morality. When the US President speaks about his concern for the Palestinians, he is not concerned about them he is concerned about votes. Nothing changes on the ground, it is called politics speak. How did the promoters of Israel expect the creation of a Jewish state to be a success without the support of the Palestinians and the Arab world?
    Israel will have no legitimacy for many people of the world until there is an agreement with the people of Palestine. Remarkably, the Israelis never speak about a solution only more violence and atrocities. There are no Nelson Mandelas in Israel so don’t expect a solution soon. The Palestinians in whatever form, Hamas or Hezbollah or the ordinary people of Palestine have few options to deal with the injustice they have been dealt. The accusation that UNRWA, the UN aid organisation, is supporting terrorism is another cynical example of the Israeli’s taking every opportunity to exterminate the Palestinians. Typically, no evidence provided. Of course, the Palestinians support Hamas and Hezbollah who else is batting for them. The Palestinians have been violated, impoverished, and humiliated for the past 75 years. Hezbollah and Hamas are the consequence.
    Israeli aggression is now on the world stage, it is out of the exclusive hands of the Israeli propaganda machine and the USA, the Teutonic plates around this issue are shifting, the best outcome is that Israel is dismantled. Israel is a threat to world peace and has bought death and misery to millions of people The cover provided and encouragement of these crimes against humanity by the USA, its allies, the western media, the Israeli propaganda machine, and the Jews around the world will go down in history as a crime of its own.
    Only disciples of humanity get to heaven.

    John Shaw
    South Africa

    • Trenton Carr says:

      The fight between the 3000 odd factions believing their heaven is the only one has created more death and destruction than anything else for humanity.

      Please stop.


  • Peter Cook says:

    Surely Universities should be institutions that encourage and foster free and independent thought? Why should Pandor influence that with her own beliefs?

  • Roel Goris says:

    A country’s top diplomat – its Minister of International Relations – calling students not to dialogue or diplomacy, but to increasing protest and activism at universities – knowing full well that this could lead to violence, destruction of university property and, most importantly, disruption of learning. (And then, of course, protest and activism only against Israel, not against Russia’s war in Ukraine or the RSF’s genocide in Sudan.)
    This is where South Africa finds itself today : activism before education, protest before diplomacy – echoes of the old struggle slogan : “liberation before education”. No wonder that both South Africa’s education system and its foreign policy are in such a mess.

  • Gavin Knox says:

    This motor mouth panda is totally despicable in her blind belief of the ” genocide ” by the Israeli Army. While the real murder Putin is shielded by her as she blindly ignores how many totally innocent Ukrainian civilians, men, women, children, elderly, infirm and sick are still being killed on a daily basis for how many years now, simply because a barbaric ex KGB stooge wants all of his, no longer commie states, back.
    She should hang that head of hers in shame, but she has non…
    Disgusting creature.

  • Covid 1939 says:

    The article pushes for more activism against Israel at South African universities but really misses some big points. It barely mentions Hamas and doesn’t at all explain how they operate out of (and launch attacks from) civilian areas, including all the institutions mentioned, which is a huge part of the story. Also, there’s nothing about the hostages — isn’t rescuing them a major reason Israel is so involved? Leaving out these details makes the whole article feel biased. It’s tough to have a real conversation about peace when we’re only getting one side of the story, especially from a perspective that seems to overlook the complexities of the situation.

  • Mo Sheikh says:

    There are only 2 books that Nolady reads. the holy Quran (about which she clearly understands nothing) and her instructions from Iran. What a shame for South Africa. Lets take all this energy and put it into making our home better

  • jcdville stormers says:

    They get paid by their masters in Iran and Russia,quack,quack,.Leave the students to study,give them their funding which is also being stolen

  • Rob vZ says:

    Yet, she is happy to invite the Sudanese general of the RSF to South Africa, a monster responsible for wide spread genocide and ethnic cleansing. No one should listen to a word this morally bankrupt individual has to say. Resign Minister Pandor, or move to Iran, though you might find it hard as a woman to have a voice of any kind when you are there.

  • Joe Slabbert says:

    For once, a rare event, I have to agree with our bizarre government, that Israel’s actions are indefensible. But Israel will not stop, and urging pointless, harmful action on university campuses, will make no difference to Israel whatsoever.
    The reciprocal outrage of Russia’s invasion and devastation of Ukraine, is sadly missing.
    There is a reek of hypocritical opportunism here; a selective, opportunistic morality.
    I think Naledi Pandor has feet of clay, our foreign policy is based on crass, immature expediency, and our upcoming elections are exposing the political BSE that drives decision making. Our government, our political atmosphere, is descending into a state of infantile dementia.
    Our opposition parties are not immune to this implosion of insight.
    This is an important election, but nothing much will change, because we are all too young and stupid to honestly achieve meaningful progress.
    It will take a generation.

  • Hello There says:

    Hm, here I thought that scholasticide is what happened to education in SA under ANC rule.
    Meanwhile, if Omar Al Bashir comes to visit, there’ll be a party to celebrate his impending peace Nobel prize…

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