The biggest South African student organization has suspended three students for partaking in a trip to Israel despite being warned not to go, South African news site News24 reported Thursday.
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Luzuko Buku, secretary general of the South Africa Students Congress, known as Sasco, said the three participants who were members of the organization face disciplinary hearings.
According to the report, South African philanthropists funded the early July trip, which included a delegation of 16 young leaders. The young adults said they would only go to Israel if no conditions were attached.
Members of the delegation told Haaretz last week that they were in Israel as private citizens and not as representatives of any organization. The group issued a similar statement in South Africa on Thursday that they had all gone in their personal capacity.
"All young people who traveled to Israel and Palestine did not represent any political party on the trip. We all travelled in our personal capacity in order to learn more about the reality of the situation and understand the positions of both countries," the group said.
"We view an act by some of our members to visit Israel as crossing the picket line," said Buko. "We advised them against going on the trip, but they resisted."
According to the report, the young leaders included members of Sasco, the Young Communist League of SA and the African National Congress's Youth League. Some of them said that Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA) had threatened them not to go to Israel.
Sasco called the visit a "propaganda trip."
"The intention of this trip is to give an unbalanced perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the organization asserted.
Buko said the members' actions had tainted Sasco's name and put it into disrepute.
The visit was organized by the South Africa Israel Forum, directed by Dan Brotman.
“The goal is not to make them pro-Israel, but to expose them to a narrative they really don’t hear in South Africa,” Brotman told Haaretz while the group was in Israel, during which participants met with members of Telfed, the support organization for immigrants from South Africa.
"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," responded the students.
They asked to be allowed to discuss their experiences in Israel rather than be assailed, according to News24.
The Young Communist Leage SA and ANC Youth League could not be reached for immediate comment.
Earlier on Thursday, a deputy minister in President Jacob Zuma's office threatened to punish the young leaders who visited Israel.