A furore has erupted at Virgin Active’s Old Edwardians gym in Houghton.
Muhammed Desai, a gym member, was asked to leave the gym after arriving for a session in a t-shirt presenting a political message.
Desai, the coordinator of pro-Palestine organisation BDS and an ANC Youth League branch president, was wearing a t-shirt calling for “solidarity with Palestinians against Israeli Apartheid”.
Desai said, “I was told that I am not allowed to wear my YCL BDS t-shirt because it’s pro-Palestinian, and so they’ve called police to arrest me.
“My point is quite clear. I’m a paid-up member of this club and I have the right to be here.”
Desai said the manager of the club had refused to put his objections on paper.
Before being escorted from the gym, Desai said, “Those that are offended at human rights… those are the ones that are a problem.”
The front of Desai’s t-shirt displays an image of Chris Hani and a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo.
BDS is an international coalition of Palestinian organisations, trade unions, and aligned networks calling for a boycott of all ties with the Israeli state, and for sanctions to be imposed on trade with Israel.
BDS has recently been active in South Africa in calling for a boycott of Woolworth stores until they remove Israeli products from their shelves.
More explicitly, the back of Desai’s t-shirt presented the following message: “From the coast of Cape Town to the coast of Gaza in solidarity with Palestinians against Israeli apartheid.”
The Old Edwardian gym has a very large number of Jewish members.
Twitter users quickly began sharing anti-Palestinian and Islamophobic tweets and pictures, becoming the top trending item in the country on Thursday morning.