Good relations upset between Jewish and Bo-Kaap schools

Herzlia High took issue with anti-Zionist posters at Vista High School

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Photo of a school
Vista High in the Bo-Kaap where anti-Zionist posters have upset an outreach programme with Herzlia High. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

The school governing body (SGB) of Vista High in the Bo-Kaap has terminated collaborations with Herzlia High, a Jewish school, with immediate effect according to Bo-Kaap community leader Dawood Terblanche. He also said the school has withdrawn disciplinary steps against deputy principal Ismail Esau following complaints from Herzlia about posters on display at Vista that read: “Israel is a terrorist state guilty of ethnic cleansing” and “Yes to Judaism, no to Zionism”.

Other posters included quotes by Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X in support of Palestine in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The decision by Vista came after the SGB and principal met with disgruntled members of the community on Monday. When GroundUp contacted the principal of Vista High for comment, however, she said she was not at liberty to speak on the matter.

Esau put up the anti-Zionist posters in his office window apparently in anticipation of an outreach visit from Herzlia High.

Director of United Herzlia Schools, Geoff Cohen, said students and teachers noticed the posters upon their arrival at Vista High on 4 September when the pupils came to renovate the library and create a playground area.

Cohen said he met with Esau on the day and asked him to remove the posters as they were offensive to his learners and teachers, but Esau refused. Cohen said the learners continued with their outreach programme despite the incident.

Posters put up at Vista School that denounced Israel and Zionism. Photographer unknown

According to Paddy Attwell, Director of Communications at the Western Cape Education Department, an investigation into whether Esau contravened the Employment of Educators Act and related legislation, was underway.

“The South African Schools Act prohibits schools from being used as political platforms. In addition, the Code of Professional Ethics published by the South African Council of Educators prohibits teachers from abusing their position for financial, political or personal gain. All members of the school community have every right to express their political views, subject to the Constitution and relevant legislation,” said Atwell.

The Act however specifically refers to party-political activities, not all political activities.

Terblanche had sent a letter to the principal of Vista High condemning the “harsh actions” towards Esau. Terblanche is a member of the Muslim Judicial Council South Africa but spoke in his capacity as a Bo-Kaap community member.

He said Bo-Kaap is a proud multi-cultural and ethnic community of Muslims, Jews and Christians that coexisted in harmony and respect for one another.

“Vista High School is a symbol of justice in our community and produced many activists who championed the cause of all the oppressed and participated in the liberation struggle,” wrote Terblanche.

Cohen said, “If the principal, staff and pupils of Vista High are fully supportive of the programme, our Grade 11 pupils would like to continue the programme and finish what they had originally set out to do”.

Cohen described the prior relationship between the two schools as a “positive experience for both Vista and Herzlia pupils”.

“Herzlia’s Grade 11 pupils have been tutoring the Grade 8 pupils from Vista in Maths and English for close to two years. The programme has run smoothly and according to the Vista Principal, her pupils’ marks have shown improvement in these two subjects,” said Cohen.

TOPICS:  Education Freedom of Expression

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I write this letter in response to the "good relations" statement which creates the perception that the deputy principal's actions are responsible for damaging the so-called working-relationship between the schools.

I suspect that this so-called "good relations" was far from the rosy picture painted. In fact, history is our witness that in a country which went through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the process of reconciliation between the once and still privileged Herzlia High School and the continued disadvantaged position of Vista High School remains a fragile facade.

The issue at stake, the protest against Apartheid Zionist Israel, is one not only recognised by the majority of countries at the United Nations, but by the very leaders and heroes of our own liberation struggle. The fact that I am writing this letter from New Zealand and as a member of the New Zealand Palestine Solidarity Network is proof that this issue against Apartheid Zionist Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine, the oppression of Palestinian human rights in all territories as well as the genocide of the wars against Gaza are real and supported globally.

Herzlia High School has a dark history of not only close links with the Apartheid Zionist Israeli state but has never condemned the actions of Israel. Until this happens, the "good relations" remains a fragile facad.

Dear Editor

I fully endorse the right for Mr Esau of Vista High School to express not just his personal views towards Israel as an apartheid state, but also the views of the community ever since our years of apartheid.

We have always associated the Palestinian struggle with our own. Thank goodness we have overcome that battle but now we must continue to fight for the liberation of the Palestinians. Our hero and a true leader, Madiba said, "We are not free unless the Palestinians are free".

It is clear to me that as a South African I have no choice but to highlight the struggle of the Palestinians in my everyday existence, just as much as the world highlighted our struggle during our need for support. I beg Herzlia School to educate their children fairly and to avoid making the same mistake as our ex-leaders did during the apartheid years when they treated people of colour unjustly and regarded them as sub-human.

This is exactly how Israel is treating Palestinians. Like our past, Palestinians can't vote. Worse than our past, Palestinians have to go through checkpoints on a daily basis. These are but a few of the inhumane acts of the Zionists. I have Jewish friends who are ashamed and appalled by the actions of Zionists/Israel. Why can't Herzlia School think and educate their children with the truth?

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