A South African student group that supports an economic boycott of Israel shrugged off allegations that their calls to “shoot the Jew” during a concert by an Israeli saxophonist last week were anti-Semitic.
The performance by the Daniel Zamir Israeli Jazz Quartet, led by Zamir (pictured), an Israeli jazz musician, took place at University of the Witwatersrand --popularly known as Wits University -- in Johannesburg last Wednesday.
Protesters from the group BDS, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, gathered outside the university’s Great Hall where the concert was waking place and began singing a song originally called “Dubul’ ibhunu,” a song featuring a refrain that means, “shoot the Boer.” The song was a protest against South Africa’s former apartheid regime which fell in 1994.
Only this time, the protesters changed the song to “Dubula e Juda,” which translates as “shoot the Jew.”
A BDS leader, Muhammed Desai, told the school newspaper that the slogan wasn’t mean to be taken literally, adding, “The whole idea of anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion."
BDS is one of several groups that supports an economic boycott of Israel to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
In its planning stages, the concert was the subject of intense controversy at the university as BDS attempted to stop the performance from taking place. At the same time, pro-Israel groups faced accusations that they used racial profiling techniques to control who would be admitted to the Great Hall to attend the jazz concert.
Other supporters of the boycott movement condemned BDS’s use of the song.
"A series of organizations that support the boycotts have made it clear they don't think it's a remotely acceptable slogan," Steven Friedman, a professor who supports the boycott movement, told South Africa’s Mail & Guardian newspaper. He added that the boycott movement is “not targeted at a particular ethnic group."
Boycott opponents condemned the song in stronger terms.
“What this incident unmistakeably shows is that BDS SA's real agenda is not to stand up for the Palestinian cause,” said Mary Kluk, chairperson of the pro-Israel South African Board of Deputies, “but to incite hatred, and possibly even violence, against Jewish South Africans."
BDS later issued a statement seeming to apologize for the song, saying that, “we unequivocally distance ourselves from the singing of this song and its sentiments,” but failing to mention the earlier defense of the song by Desai.
SOURCES: Jerusalem Post, Mail & Guardian