UCT Hosts Hezbollah Speaker, Ignites Global Debate on Academic Freedom
The University of Cape Town (UCT) has recently been the centre of controversy as a virtual event hosted by the UCT Palestinian Solidarity Forum (UCT PSF) allowed Ibrahim al-Mousawi, a spokesperson for Hezbollah, to address students. This marked the third instance this year of UCT providing a platform to individuals associated with internationally recognized terror organizations. Previously, representatives from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had addressed students during the Israel Apartheid Week via a video call from Iran.
Moreover, Imam Mohammed al-Assi, a persona renowned for his extremist views, was invited by the UCT PSF to speak to students. The event was promoted as an opportunity to express solidarity with the mujahedeen in Palestine. The participants recorded a video message which was intended to be sent directly to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Flags depicting these terror organizations were seen being waved by students during the event.
Concerns Raised by Jewish Organisations
These events have raised serious concerns among numerous Jewish organizations. The South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS), the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), and the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies have criticized UCT for providing a platform for anti-Israel propaganda and allowing the spread of extremism on campus. SAZF chairman Rowan Polovin has questioned the university’s leadership for failing to prevent or condemn the abuse of the campus by individuals spreading hate.
UCT’s Response to the Criticism
In response to the criticism, UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola stated that student societies organize their events independently. Any issues or concerns related to any event held on campus should be reported through internal structures. He clarified that events hosted by student organizations are not institutional events, and the views expressed by the invited speakers do not necessarily align with those of UCT management. Moholola added that UCT management was not involved in the process of inviting speakers.
Jewish Student Safety and South Africa’s Stance on Hezbollah
The SAUJS has expressed concerns about the safety of Jewish students on campus. However, it’s worth noting that South Africa does not officially recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. This dichotomy between international recognition and national stance adds another layer to the contentious atmosphere surrounding these events.
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