Saturday, May 18

Op-ed: As a South African during apartheid, I admire pro-Palestine protesters’ tenacity

I feel compelled to write this letter from faraway South Africa as a gesture of support and solidarity for UCLA students and those at other US universities who have been protesting in solidarity with Palestine and have been met with violence and arrest for their efforts.

I salute with great admiration the incredible bravery and moral conviction shown by the protesters and feel sincere sympathy for the brutality and violence meted out against you by counter-protesters and the police. Your immense courage has been seen all over the world and it is incredibly heart-warming to those of us who believe in peace, justice and equality to see young Americans prepared to take up this struggle.

As a white South African who was a university student in the mid-1980s at the height of the apartheid state repression, your pro-Palestine protests resonate deeply with what we endured back then when we held very similar protests against apartheid.

Your actions now bring so many memories flooding back. We too faced the brutal force of the apartheid police and also endured ridicule and harassment from right-wing elements on campus – although we were never attacked in the violent manner as you were on Tuesday and Wednesday night. We also enjoyed better support from our university administration than you seem to have experienced.

Despite our strong moral convictions, we did not really think we were going to dismantle apartheid at the time, and yet, just a year after I left university, that is precisely what started to happen. I have no doubt that one day you too will be able to look back at these events, with similar pride, and know you were on the right side of history.

With immense respect,

Dr. Anton Boonzaier

South Africa

Anton Boonzaier is a conservation farmer and earned a Masters in Environmental Science and a Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Cape Town.

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