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University of Witwatersrand students forbidden by administration to peacefully express solidarity with Palestinians

(FXI/IFEX) - The following is an FXI press release:

Student Organisation's peaceful demonstration on campus prohibited by the University of the Witwatersrand

Today, 8 May 2008, marks the 60th Anniversary of Israeli independence. There are deep disagreements as to the significance of this historic event; one point of view emphasizes that it was a catastrophe for Palestinians and signifies a history of injustice and oppression, while another emphasizes that it marked the realization of a long-held ambition by Jewish people to achieve national self-determination. If the University of the Witwatersrand's actions are anything to go by, its administrators would prefer for such disagreements not to be expressed publicly.

The Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), a Wits student organisation, was denied permission by the University to hold a peaceful 12-person demonstration on campus today. The proposed demonstration was to be in protest of an event organised by the South African Union of Jewish Students ("SAUJS"), another student organization, as part of their celebrations.

The University refused the PSC's request notwithstanding the fact that they provided the University with an undertaking that the demonstration would be conducted in a peaceful and lawful manner and, furthermore, guaranteed that their protest would not disrupt or prevent the SAUJS event or any other University function.

The University's refusal to allow the PSC to demonstrate in the peaceful and extremely limited fashion proposed is unreasonable and flies in the face of the right to freedom of expression. The right of the students to express themselves freely on campus forms part of a culture of academic freedom to uphold a diversity of views and to encourage independent thinking. We are of the opinion that the PSC has good grounds for taking the University's decision for review.

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