School boy’s Gaza stance divides SA Jews

2014-08-11 10:17

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Last week, Joshua Broomberg was an ordinary school boy – ordinary yet still exceptional. He was South Africa’s national debate team captain and deputy head boy of King David Victory Park School.

Today he is caught in the crossfire of outrage at a stance he took on Israel’s war on Palestine and those who have come out in support of him.

Two online petitions have since emerged – one calling for Broomberg to be removed from his position as deputy head boy and a member of the students representative council due to his condemnation of human rights abuses in Gaza, and the other one countering this petition.

The controversy started after Broomberg and his teammates in the national high school debating team, who are currently in Bangkok for the World Debating Championships, posted a picture on Facebook. In the picture, they were wearing Palestinian scarves during the tournament’s opening ceremony.

The new petition, which has been signed by former head boys and head girls of the King David School, calls for attacks on Broomberg to stop.

The petition goes on to say that “silencing young people is not in the spirit of the Jewish community”.

In a post on his Facebook page, Broomberg issued a statement on Friday. He apologised for the “uproar” caused by the photograph, but stood by his decision to take a stand against “the human rights abuses currently being perpetrated against the citizens of Gaza”.

He said: “It was not about politics, or about states. It was about humanity. We stand with the thousands of civilians who have lost their lives in the conflict ...

“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. I do believe in Israel, and I take this stand because I can love and support the state of Israel but still reject and criticise some of its actions. In fact, I consider it my duty to contribute to the growing worldwide discussion surrounding the desperate need for a quick end and lasting solution to this pernicious conflict.”

The South African Board of Jewish Education has issued a statement saying that it has noted the incident and “the school is dealing with the matter”.

The United Kingdom’s Sky News reported that the death toll since Israel launched its military campaign on July 8 topped 2 000 yesterday – 1 939 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side.

“Since the last truce broke on Friday, warplanes have reportedly hit more than 170 targets in Gaza, killing at least 19 Palestinians. Meanwhile, militants fired at least 136 rockets at Israel. Some 93 hit, according to the army,” reported Sky.

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