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July 16, 2015 4:05 pm

Pro-Palestinian Group in South Africa Suspends Members for Visiting Israel

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Israeli flags and Muslim minarets in Jerusalem's Old City. Photo: Dave Bender

South African student leaders were suspended for traveling to Israel. Photo: Dave Bender

A pro-Palestinian student group in South Africa temporarily suspended some of its members who traveled to Israel with an 18-member delegation of young leaders, the organization said on Tuesday.

The South African Students Congress (SASCO) accused the members of participating in an “Israel propaganda trip,” and claimed the intention of the visit was to receive an “unbalanced perspective” on the Israeli-Arab conflict. They group expressed grave concern over attempts by the “Zionist lobby” to wage “a counter offensive to our ongoing solidarity campaigns with the oppressed people of Palestine.”

SASCO, which promotes the boycott of Israel, said the trip was an attempt to embarrass it through its members’ participation. They claimed the tour tainted the name of their organization and put it into “disrepute.” The visit to Israel was “crossing the picket line,” the group said.

“We wish to send a clear message to our members that as an internationalist organization, we will never accept that in our name our members contradict our standing positions,” a statement said. “The oppression of the people of Palestine by apartheid Israel is no different if not worse than our own oppression. It would be an indictment on our part if we do not take action.”

The delegation of student leaders traveled to Israel on July 4 and returned to South Africa on Saturday. The trip was organized by the South Africa Israel Forum.

SASCO Secretary General Luzuko Buku claimed its members were advised against going on the trip, but went nonetheless. “They knew they would be suspended when they created this crazy offence,” said Buko, according to the local publication News 24.

Dan Brotman, the director of the South Africa Israel Forum, told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the goal of the trip was “not to make [the students] pro-Israel, but to expose them to a narrative they really don’t hear in South Africa.”

The suspended SASCO members announced in a joint statement on Thursday that they had visited the Jewish State in a “personal capacity” so they could learn “more about the reality of the situation and understand the positions of both countries.”

“This trip was a success and all delegates have different opinions on this conflict as a result of our experiences with both people of Palestine and Israel, and thus we are more determined that through our findings there might actually be light for a solution towards the ongoing war,” they said.

The young leaders also mentioned that there have been false claims about them receiving gifts and money for participating in the trip. They requested privacy in order to consider their findings from the trip.

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