Leila Khaled
Leila KhaledReuters File

A student group of the Durban University of Technology (DUT), which had given a call to "expel all Jews," has retracted its statement.

The Student Representative Council had made the call, after several Jewish students held a protest in the university, opposing the visit of a former member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) ― Leila Khaled ― to raise funds for the Palestinian cause.

Khaled, who is considered a controversial figure in Israel, was involved in plane hijacking during 1969-70 and was later released in a prisoner exchange for civilian hostages kidnapped by her fellow PFLP members.

The South African Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (SA BDS) movement termed Khaled an icon of the Palestinian struggle, and compared her to late South African president Nelson Mandela.

However, DUT vice-chancellor Professor Ahmed Bawa said the call was "preposterous, unjust, unfair, unreasonable and unconstitutional. It's in violation of our values and principles. DUT does not discriminate against any person based on their race, religion, colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political affiliation."

A student body leader, Ayanda Ngidi, reportedly said that the demand was not to expel all Jews, but a call to deregister "Zionists", whom he described as students funded by the Israeli government.