Israel: Opposing lobby groups vie for public and government support as anti-Zionist protests reveal anti-Semitism.
Rather than condemning this incitement to violence against South African Jews and distancing his organisation from those calls, Muhammed Desai, the co-ordinator of BDS South Africa, sought to justify it.
He told Wits's student publication Vuvuzela: "Just like you would say 'Kill the Boer' at a funeral during the 1980s, it wasn't about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying the apartheid regime."
Desai further commented: "The whole idea of anti-Semitism is blown out of proportion."
Generally, the world doesn't flinch when Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and even certain mullahs call for "Death to the Jews" or for Israel to be wiped out. They regularly proclaim this from their pulpits, and in their political charters and manifestos.
Somehow, people have become inured to calls for Israel to be destroyed. Few question why the only Jewish state should be so maliciously targeted. These calls are now uttered with such frequency that they have garnered mainstream acceptability.
Trumpeting human-rights concerns, BDS is so resolutely focused on cleansing the world of anything or anyone Israeli that it conceals its true agenda - to destroy the Jewish state.
This seems more important than the human rights of the majority in Israel, who happen to be Jews, or even the propagation of Palestinian rights. If BDS was sincerely interested in fostering Palestinian rights, they would voice their concerns for the treatment of Palestinians who live in Arab countries, where they suffer more discrimination and exclusion than in Israel.
Earlier this year, on university campuses around South Africa, during the obscenely named hate festival, Israel Apartheid Week, calls likening Jews to devils, murderers, colonialists and racists resonated around educational facilities.
One member of a student representative council (SRC) was found guilty of hate speech (he is now serving a relatively light sentence of 50 hours' community service); at Wits, disciplinary procedures are under way against 11 students, mainly members of the SRC, for attacks on and threats to Jews and Israelis, made when they disrupted the concert of Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef.
The Zionist Federation is worried about our youth being exposed to this vitriol. Our youth are very susceptible to persuasion; it is frightening how many young South Africans have been incited to behave in an overtly anti-Semitic manner on campus. It is even more frightening that they do not consider this anti-Semitic.
To his credit, Wits vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib said that it was "outrageous" that some protestors chanted and sang "Dubul 'iJuda" at the protest.
"It is irresponsible when anyone propagates the murder of another on the basis of religion, race or ethnicity," said Habib.
By disavowing Zionism, the rights of Jews to live in their own state is disavowed. This is a fundamental right enjoyed by every nation. Denying it to Jews is flagrantly anti-Semitic and racist.
Until Israel is evaluated and treated on the same basis as other states, all attempts to single out only Israel for opprobrium and blame, particularly when the whole region is in turmoil, should be deemed as anti-Semitic rather than anti-Zionist.
Ben Levitas is the chairperson of the Zionist Federation (Cape Council).