BY BRYNLEY VAN AARDT
Conversation quickly grew heated on the Rooiplein yesterday when Stellenbosch University’s (SU) Palestinian Solidarity Forum (PSF), along with SU’s division of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and Amensty SU held a critical engagement to help educate students on the #freepalestine movement.
After an opening statement by Kwanda Nyembe to the large crowd gathered on the steps of the Rooiplein, pro-Israel individuals such as Meirav Grobler started voicing their opinions in an attempt to defend the state. While Grobler was at first met with comments such as “This is a PSF discussion – you are not welcome here”, Pastor Gama, a “self-proclaimed mediator”, soon stepped in to defuse the situation. He stated that questions from both sides would be discussed in the Q&A session at the end.
Gama explained having discussions included having the ability to disagree, “but at least we are having the conversation”.
Besides the two non-students who showed up to support Israel, most in attendance sided with Palestine and were seated with Palestinian flags and posters to show their support.
Wilri Terblanche, a postgraduate LLB student said, “I came solely to show support and listen to what people close to the struggle, in this case the PSF, have to say. I strongly believe that we have to educate ourselves and have all the facts in evidence before taking a stand.”
“History teaches us that if we don’t show up in solidarity, we are supporting and further perpetuating the oppression of Palestinians. Like Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu said, ‘ If you remain silent in circumstances of injustice, you are choosing the side of the oppressor,’” Terblanche continued.
The host of the event, the PSF, was registered and founded at the end of 2018 and began its activities of solidarity in 2019 with the goal of creating awareness regarding the occupation in Palestine and standing in solidarity against human rights violations.
According to the PSF, SASCO and Amnesty SU are two societies that support human rights.
“They were fully on board with us once they heard of the event we were planning. The tension in Palestine and countless human right violations by Israel is something SASCO and Amnesty both condemn and will be educating the university students on basic human rights that Palestinian people do not have under Israel,” Zayd Wookey, PSF treasurer, said,
Wookey continued to say, “I think it’s time that the students of Stellenbosch are made aware of the atrocities Israel is committing against Palestine. The Stellenbosch University students need to open their eyes and be informed of the ethnic cleansing in Palestine.”
“This critical engagement is absolutely necessary in gaining support for Palestine and ending the Israel apartheid regime,” Wookey conlcuded.
PSF ended the engagement stating that they would be holding another critical engagement next week as they believe there is still a lot more conversation to be had.