SA debating team in final after furore over keffiyehs

The South African national debating team, which faced criticism over its show of support for the Palestinian people last week, will compete in the World Schools Debating Championships (WSDC) final against England in Thailand on Thursday.

King David Victory Park deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg and two of his debate teammate, came under fire last week for wearing keffiyehs – which is recognised as a Palestinian symbol – and Palestinian badges to the WSDC. 

(Pic from Facebook)

The furore began when Broomberg was tagged last week in a photo on social media platform Facebook. The picture caption read: “Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyehs to show our opposition to human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine. #WSDC2014”. 

Online petition
An online petition was launched soon thereafter calling for Broomberg’s removal as deputy head boy and as a member of the school’s student representative council, as he had brought the school into disrepute. By the morning of August 5, over 2 000 people had signed the petition. 

On Friday, Broomberg posted a statement on his Facebook page where he apologised, saying that the picture was not intended to “create an uproar”, “offend, or upset”. Broomberg said he was a proud South African Jew, proud to attend a Jewish day school, and was also a Zionist. 

He went on to say that he believed in Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, while all citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza had an absolute right to live in peace and security. 

Broomberg said while he loved and supported the state of Israel, he still rejected and criticised 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,” he said. 

“In my eyes, this criticism is not a betrayal, but actually the only honest and true way to show my patriotism and commitment to Israel, as well as my belief in human rights and the entitlement of all citizens of all countries to those rights. To improve, we must criticise,” said Broomberg. 

ANC in support of Broomberg
The South African Board of Jewish Education (SABJE) distanced itself on Monday from the petition calling for the removal of Broomberg, saying that decisions at the school or interactions with students should not be made from pressure received from an “online storm”. 

On Tuesday, the ANC came out in support of Broomberg and his debate teammates, saying that the three “embody South Africa’s constitutional principles”. The party also called upon all progressive and peace loving South Africans, including those of Jewish faith, to support the actions of Broomberg and others like him who were prepared to stand for a better world. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the SABJE said in a statement that Broomberg had apologised for the furore over the picture of him wearing the Palestinian scarf. “This has been a learning opportunity for the 17-year-old pupil concerned [Broomberg] and he has both explained his stance in a later posting and genuinely apologised for the hurt it produced.” 

“We acknowledge that the picture posted was insensitive and hurtful and was seen as such in the community. We appreciate his clarification to the community and he has further submitted an apology to his school for his actions. His apology has been accepted.” 

The board said Broomberg had had a great deal to offer to the school over the years and had achieved notable successes. It also went on to say that it “[recognised] that the conflict that is taking place in the Middle East is devastating and the loss of all life and injuries sustained are deeply painful to us”. The board considered the matter to be closed, with no further action to be taken. 

Meanwhile, Broomberg and his fellow teammates, Samual Musker, Rachel Gardiner, Kate Dewey and Saadiyah Mayet will face England in the WSDC debating final at midday on Thursday . – Sapa, additional reporting by Staff Reporter

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Guest Author

Two dead in new ANC KwaZulu-Natal killings

A Mtubatuba councillor and a Hammarsdale ANC Youth League leader were shot yesterday near their homes

Inside Facebook’s big bet on Africa

New undersea cables will massively increase bandwidth to the continent

No back to school for teachers just yet

Last week the basic education minister was adamant that teachers will return to school on May 25, but some provinces say not all Covid-19 measures are in place to prevent its spread

Engineering slips out of gear at varsity

Walter Sisulu University wants to reprioritise R178-million that it stands to give back to treasury after failing to spend it

Press Releases

Coexisting with Covid-19: Saving lives and the economy in India

A staggered exit from the lockdown accompanied by stepped-up testing to cover every district is necessary for India right now

What Africa can learn from Cuba in combating the Covid-19 pandemic

Africa should abandon the neoliberal path to be able to deal with Covid-19 and other health system challenges likely to emerge in future

Road to recovery for the tourism sector: The South African perspective

The best-case scenario is that South Africa's tourism sector’s recovery will only begin in earnest towards the end of this year

Covid-19: Eased lockdown and rule of law Webinar

If you are arrested and fined in lockdown, you do get a criminal record if you pay the admission of guilt fine

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations