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January 20, 2014 9:12 pm

South Africa’s Wits University Sentences 11 Students to Community Service for Anti-Israel Riot

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Great Hall on East Campus at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: WikiCommons.

Great Hall on East Campus at the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: WikiCommons.

Administrators of the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa, said the school sentenced 11 students to community service for disrupting a performance of Israeli concert pianist Yossi Reshef in an anti-Israel riot during “Israel Apartheid Week” in March 2013.

Reshef had been invited as a guest of Tararam, an Israeli culture initiative, but the concert ended abruptly after vuvuzela-blowing, screaming protesters, including members of the Muslim Students Association, broke into the auditorium to interrupt the event. Diplomatic guests were hastily removed by their respective security teams, while members of the audience reported being traumatized and manhandled.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, of Shurat HaDin, the Israeli Law Center, said, “While the BDS operatives and their Islamic allies engaged in shouting and physical violence, causing the concert to be cancelled, the staff of the University did nothing to prevent the protesters’ illegal behavior.”

In a statement released on Friday, Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, of the university said:

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Ten students have been found guilty of misconduct for disrupting or inciting others to disrupt the piano recital. They have been excluded from the University for a period of one year. The sentence is suspended provided that the students are not found guilty of any other form of misconduct for a period of two years. These students will not be allowed to hold any office in any student governance structure for a period of one year. In addition, they will each have to perform 80 hours of community service, as determined by the University.

One of these students has further been found guilty of not obeying a lawful instruction issued by a University employee, and will be required to perform an additional 50 hours of community service for this offence.

“This is a small but important victory over the BDS extremist in South Africa. Hopefully, it will deter future violent protests that attempt to bar Jewish artists from performing there,” Darshan-Leitner said.

In September 2012, students on the campus announced they were adopting an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. A statement issued by the school’s Student Representative Council also called for an immediate investigation into any academic, financial and cultural relations with Israeli institutions.

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