In Defence of Josh Broomberg

2014-08-11 12:03

Josh Broomberg, right, flanked by other members of the SA delegation.

Josh Broomberg is a high school student. He is currently representing South Africa at the World Schools’ Debating Championships. Josh has recently received a significant amount of online attention. Unfortunately, it has little to do with his debating prowess. Rather, Josh finds himself in the middle of a campaign, and the response to it, to remove him as Deputy Head Boy of King David Victory Park School. Further, those who launched this campaign want him stripped of all honours the school has bestowed upon him.

His crime? Wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh (scarf) and showing solidarity with the people of Gaza.

The vitriolic persecution of a young man who decided to take a stand for something he believes in is galling. Not only has he been essentialised because of his faith, he has been brutalised for accepting what others determine that to mean. As is too often present in South African discourse, because he is of Jewish descent some would have that mean he must automatically, and without question, be supportive or Israel and its war against Gaza. Much like how some black people’s criticism of the ANC is drowned out, so too is there a concerted attempt to silence Josh.

In a remarkable show of support, several former students at the school have come out in support of him. At the risk of also being vilified, isolated, and shunned, that so many young people will stand up for him is heart-warming. Josh’s actions, and that of those supporting him, deserves nothing but praise. We live in a democracy where people’s views – no matter how uncomfortable they may make others – must be tolerated.

The Constitution protects Josh’s freedom of speech. It is unequivocal that he should have every right to take the stand that he has. While no one will attempt to formally silence him, this backhanded tactic to bully him to recant smacks of cowardice. Understandably, many members of the Jewish community are deeply concerned by the ongoings in the Middle East. But, their concern for their fellow Jews should not mean that they get to trample upon ‘one of their own’ in the process. Especially when one is so young and principled. In a week where the folly of youth - ignorant and idiotic black facing - dominates our headlines, we should be so grateful that there are young people out there who are conscious of the world around them.

This reaction, and some of the more extreme reaction to it, should come as no surprise. The Middle East Peace Crisis is deeply emotive and drives otherwise rational people to supporting positions that, in any other context, they would rebuke. Nothing can and will be achieved by either side attempting to press their virtuosity at the cost of the other. Only when both sides treat each other in the humane way that they demand for themselves will a genuine chance at peace be achieved. And it all starts with protecting those who have chosen to take a stand and give peace a chance.

I stand with Josh Broomberg. Irrespective of your faith, your political affiliation, your stance on Palestinian statehood, you should too.

Sign the petition here:

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AB praises selfless skipper

2010-11-21 18:15

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