Learners at King David High School in Victory Park remain divided over the recent furore around a Facebook picture of their deputy head boy wearing a Palestinian scarf.
Two learners spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the atmosphere at the school as the South African Jewish Board of Education (SAJBE) took a decision last night not to take any action against Joshua Broomberg for the contentious picture.
In a statement released this morning, the SABJE which oversees King David said: “We acknowledge that the picture posted was insensitive and hurtful and was seen as such in the community. This has been a learning opportunity for the 17 year old pupil concerned and he has both explained his stance in a later posting [on Facebook] and genuinely apologized [sic] for the hurt it produced.”
“This statement … brings the matter to a close with no further action to be taken,” read the statement.
But despite this apparent end to the matter, learners at King David describe the atmosphere at their school as “one of tension”.
Wits Vuvuzela has learned that yesterday, the director of the SABJE, Rabbi Craig Kacev addressed the entire school about the matter.
“They only teach one view – to support Israel wholeheartedly and fully.”
According to one of the learners at the school, who did not want to be named, “He (Kacev) recognised that the school is apolitical, but then said that what Josh (Broomberg) did was against the school’s political views (of Zionism). He also that they (the school) support critical thinking and debate, but to be honest, they only teach one view – to support Israel wholeheartedly and fully.”
“The feeling in the school is one of tension. The kids are all divided and friends are arguing over what is going on,” said the learner.
“People are scared to say anything too “drastic” though, for fear of being ostracized and attacked.”
A second learner, who also declined to be identified, said that some learners found the criticism aimed at Broomberg “sickening”.
“I cannot and refuse to comprehend how adults, our moral responsible leaders, have openly vilified, humiliated and even threatened a 17 year old boy for expressing a view.”
Saul Musker, a Wits University student and one of people in the photograph with Broomberg, says he does not regret taking the photograph.
“It was without a doubt the right thing to do, and the community is richer for the conversation that is now being had. It’s about time that the right-wing fascism that characterises a part of the Jewish community was exposed,” he told Wits Vuvuzela today.
“Actions have consequences”
Ariela Carno, the national chairperson of the South African Union of Jewish Students (SAUJS) and former head girl at the King David High School (Linksfield), said that the fact Broomberg made a statement through an image made it open to misinterpretation because of the anti-Israeli sentiment caused by the current situation in the Middle East. She also said that it was up to the school how to deal with the situation, and not up to the outside community.
“What I think Josh meant to say was that you can stand against Palestine in the sense of being against Hamas, but that does not mean you are against the people of Palestine. Unfortunately the way he said it was not sensitive to the Jewish community. It was understandable, he had very good intentions and is still young. He will learn from this,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.
“I do think the school needs to have a discussion with him though about how actions have consequences,” Carno said.
The furore around Broomberg erupted last week after the photograph was posted to Facebook showing him, Musker and another member of the South African debating team wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyehs (traditional Palestinian scarves).
An online petition, started by the group ‘Concerned Zionists’, was then circulated calling for the removal of Broomberg as the deputy head boy of King David and the revocation of his honours award.
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.”
Saul Musker, a first year Bachelor of Arts student at Wits wrote an open letter to Wits SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa’s . Mgudlwa wrote what he called a “Closed Open letter to an illusory white friend“. Below is Musker’s response to Mgudlwa’s letter.
Firstly, you will note that this is an open letter. I mean, actually an open letter, not a closed open one. You lamented in last week’s Wits Vuvuzela (“Closed” open letter to an illusory white friend”) that you do not have a white friend. I was terribly sorry to hear this; I could see how it pains you. I was also sorry to discover that you are “suffering from an incorrigible personality characterized by traces of mild ignorance and largely baseless stereotypes”.Acceptance is the first step to healing, they say.
[pullquote]why can’t black people befriend me?[/pullquote]Let me start out by saying that I have read many similar letters before. Each represents an honest reflection on their prejudices, a well-intentioned attempt to understand their racial isolation. Yours, though, is the first such piece I have seen by a black writer. Indeed, most white folk will find your argument familiar; the number of times I have had to endure lectures by white acquaintances about why they have no black friends is beyond count (because they’re just so different, we have no common ground and the ever-present ‘why can’t black people befriend me?’). Each time I cringe, and, believe me, I cringed no less reading your frank confessional.
The truth is that, much like your white intellectual kin, your charming ‘honesty’ is no more than a clever shroud behind which to obscure a deep and noxious prejudice. I see a broader problem with your words. Your letter reduces race elations to a clash of the classes, a case of the divide between poor black students and their rich white counterparts. It does not matter how statistically accurate this picture may be. What you have accomplished is to reduce people, human beings, to the sum of their economic context. You establish a dichotomy in which poor black res-dwellers find it impossible to forge relationships with wealthier white suburbanites. This dichotomy is precisely what prevents meaningful inter-racial dialogue on campus.
You suggest that you need a white friend “for financial benefit, which includes getting a lift to Bree taxi rank whenever necessary”. With that glib sentence you unfairly relegate black students to the users of taxi ranks, refusing to allow them the dignity of being defined by other measures. You unfairly relegate white students (who may well have been born into unearned privilege) to the ranks of the rich, denying them the right to be something more than that. Walking around Wits, one encounters a variety people.[pullquote]You suggest that you need a white friend “for financial benefit, which includes getting a lift to Bree taxi rank whenever necessary[/pullquote]r
One sees poor black students and their white private-school counterparts who have transcended their differences to develop profound and rewarding relationships. One also sees people like you, who remain so rooted in their one-dimensional, self-congratulatory racism (and laziness) that they cannot.
I only wonder how you, now a self-confessed racist, managed to become our SRC president. We needed better.
Your white brother, who could have been your white friend,