Where have all the flowers gone?

It is the accessory that ignited a firestorm. When King David Victory Park’s (A Jewish high school in Johannesburg, South Africa) Deputy Head Boy, Josh Broomberg, donned a Palestinian scarf, it ignited a storm and outpouring of emotions and opinion I have seldom seen on other more serious issues.  It must be mentioned that Broomberg is captain of South Africa’s National Debating Team. 

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In a statement of apology to the understandably upset South African Jewish community, Broomberg stated:

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 criticize 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.

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 right. To improve, we must criticise.

The same student has a history of criticism of Israel including accusing a speaker at Yom Hazikaron who was a first responder to the Park Hotel massacre in Netanya as “photoshopping the pictures as an account of the Israeli Government”.

Wearing the Palestinian scarf makes a very strong political statement. The scarf is not a symbol of “humanity” and the map of Palestine “from the river to the sea” pictured on the garment will attest to that.

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“Scarfgate” as you can well imagine, created a lot of controversy. A petition was started calling for Broomberg to be stripped of his honours as he had signed a code of conduct detailing how he should represent the school. Unfortunately not only did this action bring out the worst in some who hurled vile insults at the 18 year old and attention from the press, salivating at yet another Jewish/Israel focused story they could trot out on the front pages of newspapers, online publications and of course radio and television but has also seen members of the community turn on each other. Once again the media microscope is on the Jewish community who are already exhausted with a biased media coverage that is seeping with venom.

We can debate the issues around this ad infinitum and everybody has but is this an isolated incident or symptomatic of a greater problem?

Who is responsible for the Zionist education of our youth? Is it the school? The youth movements? The parents? Have we failed as Zionist educators? Have we prepared our youth enough to face a world that is growing more and more hostile towards Jews by the day?

I don’t know if I would like to be a teenager or university student right now and for those who are making the case for Israel on campuses around the world, I salute you. You are lions! University campuses, once the bastions of free speech and debate, have become battlefields and many young Jewish students prefer to go unnoticed rather than wear their identities proudly. It is not because they don’t feel connected, it is because they fear for their safety.

What about the student that considers him/herself Zionist but may have a contrary opinion to the establishment? Is there enough room in the tent to accommodate debate? Ironically, Israelis have never met a debate or discussion they did not like. It is our national sport and one we take great pride in. It is healthy, democratic and good for the blood pressure to get your concerns off your chest. Above all, we don’t take it personally if we agree to disagree. Why is this something foreign to others?

In my recent experience interacting with students many have expressed that there are no safe spaces for debate, may expressed that they feel increasingly isolated. Many feel that they have to do something radical to start a discussion and instead of a healthy riposte they are castigated, cast out, ostracized. Opponents on the other side are standing waiting with open arms to welcome them. Are we losing some of our children because of our reluctance to listen? Does the fault lie with us?

For many of our youth, the old ideals of Zionism are not relevant today. Israel is a successful thriving country and they tend to see all conflicts and issues wrapped up in the language of human rights. We who are educated with the facts need to listen and respond in a way that takes cognizance of their concerns. We need to dialogue with our youth. This means listening carefully to what each other has to say.

In my opinion, Scarfgate has brought an uncomfortable wound to the surface that needs to be healed. Don’t let us get to the point where we wonder where have all the flowers gone?

http://www.enca.com/media/video/king-david%E2%80%99s-principal-speaks-out-student-victimisation

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4 thoughts on “Where have all the flowers gone?

  1. Freedom of speech is fine,but timing is important,and totaly wrong when young brave IDF soldiers are been killed,in the defence of THEIR land Eretz Yisrael. And having a picture of ones self wearing a scarf that is offensive is not acceptable.

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  2. This is not a debate about Freedom of Speech. We are used to Left Wing rhetoric’s anti – Jewish and Anti-Israel comments. Haaretz and New York Times journalists and in South Africa “Not in my name”, Zapairo et al. These views will continue as will opposing views until the coming of Mosiach. So why such anger? Perhaps we’re asking why a Jewish child enrols at a Jewish Day School, signs, with their parents, acceptance and agreement to abide by the Constitution and rules of the S A Board of Jewish Education and then violates this trust in the same way that Hamas and other Terrorist leaders violate all their promises, undertakings and commitments. After all, they could have enrolled elsewhere and this ammunition they have given our critics and enemies would not exist. I have personally been fighting The Board of Education’s Director and some of the Lay Leaders for years, long before Musker, and Broomberg arrived on the scene. I pointed out the need for Zionist education in the schools as the “learners” were continually exposed to BBC,CNN, Sky etc. all of which spew anti- Israel rhetoric together with the newspapers, Government and other Palestinian supporters. If there is fault – and there is – why do those Officers entrusted to running the schools, not enforce the rules? Why do their parents not insist that their children honour and respect their commitments and undertakings to their school? K D Victory Park’s Matric pupils arrived at school several days this week wearing Tzahal insignia and uniforms and staged a protest at the “Boards” failure to respond meaningfully. They filled my heart with admiration and emotion. In years gone by, Jews could never have been given platforms to voice their new found freedom of speech and hateful behaviour. Perhaps they need to understand how having our own State of Israel empowers us. Thank you to all those who see the longer term picture and spoke out against these geniuses. For those who remember – Leopold and Loeb were also geniuses.

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  3. Rolene pursuant to my attempt to write a blog, I feel that is incumbent on the educators of any scholar or student to educate them to thoroughly investigate any topic, especially such a sensitive one as Gaza, and at this time. I feel Jeff Broomberg would never have worn such an accessory, had he been aware of all the facts available. I feel that a vice head boy of a Jewish day school, and captain of the South African Debating Team should have known better to make such a statement. He falls awfully close into the category of those 500 signatories, and Mr Tony Ehrenreich. The less said about them the better!

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  4. Before writing this I re-read Broomberg’s full statement to refresh my memory. What you include in your article is only a part thereof but represents the heart of his message.
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Quote:

    “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 criticize 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.

    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 right. To improve, we must criticise.”
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Considering that Broomberg is the captain of the SA Schools Debating Team it’s strange that he failed to resort to what he apparently knows best – debating – and chose, rather, to pose in the manner that he did in order to convey a heavy-handed message that allowed no room for debate. I can only assume that he regarded this as especially clever whereas it could have been as effectively duplicated by a well-trained chimpanzee.

    If, as Broomberg says, he has taken this stand to in order “to contribute to the growing worldwide discussion”, what is the basis of his discussion? How does wearing a scarf open the door to a meaningful analysis of the situation in Gaza or any other aspect of this age-old conflict?

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

    Great, say I … but we are waiting with bated breath to actually hear that criticism so that we have something to think about! If simply wearing this scarf, which undoubtedly aligns Broombertg with the enemy, is his contribution towards the upliftment of humanity, I hasten to tell this boy that, while his nobel intentions might be blessed by the angels, his message is garbled, incoherent and devoid of any semblence of common sense. As captain of the debating team mark me down as unequivocally unimpressed.

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