22 June 2015

To the Young People of South Africa,

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) is a student body which is a part of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). PSCABI calls upon all people, particularly  students and the youth, all over the world to stand in solidarity  with Palestinian students  by  boycotting  Israeli  academic  institutions  for  their  complicity  in  perpetuating  Israel‘s  illegal military occupation and apartheid system.

PASCBI notes with great disappointment that certain young South Africans have considered partaking in an arranged travel tour to Israel which is arranged and financed by the South Africa Israel Forum, the South African Zionist Federation and South African Friends of Israel. The purpose of this trip in the invitation to young  leaders  has  been  touted  as  an  opportunity  for  “future  leaders  to  come  and  experience  for themselves the intricacies of life in the Middle East and Israel” and “to hear the concerns and achievements reached  in  safeguarding  the  rights  and  freedoms  of  the  diverse  communities  living  in  Israel  from  top lecturers and keynote speakers”. The invitation also states that the young leaders “will be taken to different locations within Israel to get a better understanding  of the political environment,  threats, ambitions and results involved in the Middle East conflict” and furthermore posits that the “trip will create a platform for constructive  debate after hearing fair and unbiased keynote speakers that will allow our guests to make informed decisions on the problems facing the Middle East conflict.”

We are firmly of the view that this trip is nothing more than a sanctions-­‐busting junket similar to the 1980s junkets to apartheid South Africa organised by such groups as the South Africa Foundation (that operated in  the  United  States  of  America)  or  the  Strategy  Network  International  (that  operated  in  the  United Kingdom)  which specifically  focused  on trying to undermine  the boycott  of apartheid  South Africa.  The alleged intentions of the trip to Israel are disingenuous. It refers to the complicated nature of the issues involved. There is nothing complicated about injustice, oppression and occupation. These are simply moral evils.

From  previous  itineraries  of similar  trips  arranged  by  the  South  Africa  Israel  Forum,  the  South  African Zionist Federation and South African Friends of Israel, it is obvious that the list of destinations and speakers on such a trip are designed to provide a skewed view of Israel and the Israel-­‐Palestinian issue. These young leaders will visit Tel-­‐Aviv, certain parts of historic Jerusalem and religious sites, walk around European style markets, stores and avenues and engage with certain sectors of minority communities who have been co-­‐ opted  into  Israel’s  infrastructure  of  privilege  and  dispossession.  It  is  no  different  to  a  trip  that  was organised for people to visit South Africa during the apartheid period. On this trip, visitors would be taken to South Africa’s gleaming white cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town. These visitors would wander around  sophisticated  urban  spaces  replete  with  modern  stores,  restaurants  and  sprawling  university complexes looking at buildings demonstrating modernity and commercial success. Places of non-­‐Christian worship  will be pointed  out in the city centres  as apartheid  South  Africa’s  commitment  to freedom  of religion (without informing the visitors that the non-­‐white  adherents of these religious communities were expelled from the city to live in poorly resourced and far flung townships). Meetings would have also been arranged with the governing elite of the Bantustans and members of non-­‐white communities who were co-­‐ opted into the Tricameral Parliament in the 80’s for them to misinform the visitors about how great the apartheid  government  of South  Africa  was  and  how  minority  rights  were  protected  and  that  the  anti-­‐ apartheid struggle was just an anti-­‐white  smear campaign against a just and liberal society. These guests would not have visited a single black township, witnessing acts of apartheid brutality towards the black population. They would not be informed of apartheid South Africa’s policies on arrest and torture and the lack  of  due  process.  They  would  not  have  noticed  that  black  people  were  not  permitted  into  white  cities and spaces without a pass. They would have not been apprised of the unequal treatment and distribution of government  spending  towards  different  racial groupings.  All of the same will be done on the trip to Israel. In short, it will be a sham to cover up discrimination,  oppression and occupation and to break the boycott against Israel.

Visitors will not be taken by Palestinian anti-­‐apartheid activists to the occupied Palestinian West Bank to observe the indignities that ordinary Palestinians face daily at routine check points and to witness the limitations  on  Palestinians  freedom  of  movement.  No  trip  to  Hebron  by  Breaking  the  Silence  will  be planned for the young leaders to witness the overt discrimination and assaults that the Palestinians, the majority  population  of  the  town,  are  subjected  to  at  the  hands  of  bigoted  settlers  who  receive  the protection of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). The implications of Palestinians Wall on Palestinian life and its illegality  will  not be discussed.  Visitors  will  not be briefed  on the military  presence  in the occupied territories, the arbitrary arrest and torture of Palestinians, including minors, who receive no due process or fair trial and are incarcerated  for prolonged  periods of time. These young leaders  will not interact  with these oppressed Palestinians, listening to sad tales of dispossession and oppression, of their olive groves uprooted, their homes demolished and their schools damaged by settlers and the IDF. The guests will not be informed of the tremendous amount of resources spent on illegal Israeli settlements and the sparse resources made available to Palestinians. No mention will be made of the unequal rights which Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to. A trip to the Al-­‐Aqsa mosque may take place, but the guides will be sure not to mention the restrictions  that some Palestinians  face regarding  entrance  to the site. Finally, these young leaders  will not visit Gaza, a strip of densely  populated  Palestinian  land that has been under siege and bombed indiscriminately by the IDF.

All whom  the guests will interact  with are individuals  who have been co-­‐opted  by Israel, like apartheid South Africa’s Bantustan elites and members of its Tricameral Parliament. These young leaders will not visit Israeli human rights organisations such as B’Tselem or engage with Palestinian Christians from the largest Palestinian Christian organisations such as Sabeel or members of the Kairos Foundation. No arrangement will be made for guests to visit Al-­‐Qaws to understand the challenges which queer Palestinians face.

It is clear that such trips only serve to distract from Israel’s egregious crimes against Palestinians  and to break the boycott against Israel. As Palestinian students, who routinely suffer under Israel’s occupation and who are not provided with the same rights and opportunities which Israelis have, we do not welcome such trips as they seek to cover-­‐up  Israeli crimes and undermine the growing BDS campaign which Palestinian youth and students support. For young South Africans to partake in this trip would be an attack on our dignity  and our struggle  in the same way that such a trip during  the period  of South African  apartheid would  be disrespectful  to the non-­‐white  population.  Furthermore,  it would  be a departure  from  South Africa’s proud struggle legacy. We condemn this trip to Israel and call upon all young South Africans not to partake in a junket that only serves to further entrench discrimination, oppression and occupation.

Yours faithfully,

Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCBI)

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