Pro-Palestinian encampment launched at South African uni

The pro-Palestinian encampment was set up in Johannesburg on the lawns outside the University of the Witwatersrand’s Great Hall [Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group/Getty-file photo]

A pro-Palestinian encampment was launched at a South African university on Monday as the student movement against Israel’s war on Gaza continued to spread around the world.

The camp and “liberated zone” is located in Johannesburg on the lawns outside the Great Hall of the University of the Witwatersrand, also known as Wits.

The protest is inspired by similar encampments first launched in the US on 17 April, where students are demanding a Gaza ceasefire and the divestment from Israel-linked 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.

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.

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

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