Jewish top student faces criticism after show of support for Palestinians

The photograph posted to Facebook showing Broomberg and two others wearing Palestinian badges and Kaffeiyrs (scarves), found on the petition started by Concerned Zionist.

FASHION STATEMENT: A screengrab of the photo posted to Facebook showing King David deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg (right) with Wits Debating Union member Saul Musker (centre) and his brother Sam (left) wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyeh (scarves) which has triggered controversy.

THE DEPUTY  head boy of King David High School in Victory Park is facing a storm of criticism, and an online petition to remove him from his position, after a photo was posted to Facebook showing wearing a badge and keffiyeh (scarf) in support of Palestinians.

The photograph was taken on Wednesday at the World Schools Debating Championship being held in Thailand. Broomberg is the captain of the South African national debating team. The picture was posted by Wits Debating Union member Saul Musker who is featured in the centre of the photo.

The text accompanying the photo reads: “Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and Keffiyehs to show our opposition to the human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine.”

The Facebook post has triggered debate and drawn an online petition by an anonymous group calling itself “Concerned Zionist” demanding that Broomberg be stripped of his status as deputy head boy at King David and have his honours award revoked.

As of Saturday afternoon, the petition had more than 1 000 signatures.

The petition claims that Broomberg’s actions go against the contract King David Victory Park (KDVP) Student Representative Council members sign at the beginning of their leadership roles “to uphold all the core Jewish values of KDVP and all the traditions that accompany it and to support  the school in all its Zionistic and Judaic activities.”

The petition is addressed to the school’s principal, Gavin Budd, and the South African Jewish Board of Educators.

Broomberg defended himself from the criticism in a status update posted to Facebook on Friday. He said wearing the badges and keffiyeh was not a political stand but a humanitarian message of solidarity for the civilians hurt in the current violence in Gaza.

“I am proud to be a South African Jew, and I am proud to attend a Jewish Day School. I am also a Zionist,” Broomberg said in his statement.

“While I apologise for the hurt we seem to have caused, I do not apologise for standing with Palestine on this issue. This is not because I do not believe in Israel or its people.”

 

BDS distances itself from “shoot the Jew”

Muhammed Desai, coordinator of BDS, breaking his vow of silence and addressing the crowd at a protest against an Isreali musician at Wits.  Photo: Nokuthula Manyathi

Muhammed Desai, coordinator of BDS, breaking his vow of silence and addressing the crowd at a protest against an Israeli musician at Wits. Photo: Nokuthula Manyathi

Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) released a statement on Monday condemning the singing of a song with the lyrics “dubula ijuda” (shoot the Jew) at a protest it was a part of.

Some protesters adapted the South African “dubula iboer” to “dubula ijuda” at a protest against an Israeli Musician who was performing at the Wits Great Hall on August 28.

“Given our history of work against racism, including anti-Semitism, we unequivocally distance ourselves from the singing of this song and its sentiments,” said BDS in the statement . BDS condemned anti-Semitism and Zionism, “even if it were to come from within our ranks.”

Wits vice chancellor, Prof Adam Habib when approached by Wits Vuvuzela said singing the song was irresponsible but Wits is yet to make an official statement.

Coordinator of BDS , Muhammed Desai’s initial response to the song being sung was that many African people in South Africa when using the word “Jews” meant it in the same way they would have during the eighties. “Just like you would say kill the Boer at funeral during the eighties it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime”.

Many found his response unsavory, even BDS supporters. The University of Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Forum said it was “dismayed by this reasoning and feels that this version of the song has unacceptable and explicit anti-Semitic elements”. Rhodes University Palestinian Solidarity (RUPSF) forum said Desai held “disturbing views”.

RUPSF said it could not “be complicit in the condoning of racism of whatever sort” and demanded that BDS South Africa offered an “unqualified apology and an unqualified rejection and statements made by Desai”. RUPSF also said it wanted Desai to resign from his position and those involved in making the decision to sing the song excluded from the campaign. RUPSF said that unless these demands were met it could no longer continue supporting BDS South Africa and “the broad campaign it is leading”.

Desai said the people he was reporting to had not asked him to resign so he was not going to. In the statement it released by BDS South Africa condemned the singing of the song but offered no “unqualified apology” and did not mention any plans to take action against those who sang the song.

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies however said it was following up on the incident and would be taking “appropriate action”.

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SAJBD: BDS is just desperate

The South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) today denied that the concert that will be held at Wits is for Jews only.

President of SAJBD Zev Krengel said in a letter to Wits Vuvuzela that the claims, are a “desperate last-ditch tactic to discredit” the Daniel Zamir concert that will be held at Wits on August 28. Krengel did not deny the validity of the recordings but said they were a “response by an independent contractor engaged to sell tickets, who had simply misunderstood what the brief was.”

On Monday Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) released two recordings which they say is “proof of ethnic racism and profiling practiced” by some of the organisers of the concert.

A poster advertising the Daniel Zamir concert at Wits University. Image: www.jewishsa.co.za

A poster advertising the Daniel Zamir concert at Wits University. Image: www.jewishsa.co.za

The recordings involve two people whom BDS allege are the “organisers” of the concert, saying there were measures taken to make the concert a “Jewish only” one. According to the recordings the organisers also bought out all the tickets.  This is apparently to conduct background checks on those who tried to buy tickets.

“Those making these accusations are the self-same activists whose members were responsible for the disgraceful break-up of a piano recital by an Israeli musician on the same campus earlier this year,” said Krengel.

He was referring to the concert by an Israeli musician that was “disrupted” in March. Eleven Wits student who were part of the protest at that concert were later charged by Wits for “possible contravention of the university’s codes of conduct”.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Bullying tactics of those who do not scruple to undermine those freedoms in order to push their own radical political agendas.” [/pullquote]

A Wits PhD student, Serge Tshibangu, said the allegations made by BDS were false because he had ordered a ticket and had received confirmation of the order, even though he is “African”: I totally disagree that it is a racist concert.”

Tshibangu said he ordered his tickets on Monday.  He had to give his full names and identification number to buy the ticket but he understood it was so his ID number could be checked by Campus Control officers when he arrived at the concert.

Krengel said he “applauded Wits University for upholding the democratic values and freedoms that have made it so fine an academic institution and for its forthright rejection of the intimidatory, bullying tactics of those who do not scruple to undermine those freedoms in order to push their own radical political agendas.”

BDS has said it would protest outside the event.