Jewish students at South Africa school 'take a knee' in support of Palestinians

Two grade nine pupils disciplined for protest

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 15 November 2018 13:06
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The grade nine pupils knelt in protest during an awards ceremony at United Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa
The grade nine pupils knelt in protest during an awards ceremony at United Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa

Two Jewish students who “took a knee” in solidarity with Palestinians while the Israeli national anthem was sung have been disciplined by the school.

The grade nine pupils knelt in protest during an awards ceremony at United Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa.

The protest mirrors that popularised by Colin Kaepernick, an American football star who “took a knee” during the US national anthem to highlight police brutality against black Americans. It provoked controversy, with some arguing it was unpatriotic.

“The boys’ inappropriate kneeling action demonstrated deliberate and flagrant disregard for the ethos of the school,” the school’s director of education, Geoff Cohen, said in a letter sent to parents.

It publicly embarrassed the school and those who were present, he added.

Mr Cohen told The Jerusalem Post the two students kneeled in protest against the Israeli government’s policy towards Palestinians, but were “Zionist in essence”.

When he was asked if the school was punishing them for expressing their political opinions, he said the pupils were “entitled to their opinions” and the school “encourages debate and always encourages kids to question”.

He added: “We are a proudly Zionist school. The forum that they chose to protest in our opinion was embarrassing for us and for many people there. There are many forums within the school to express opinions and points of view, but this was not the right one.”

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Mr Cohen told the paper the boys had received “consequences”, which were “highly educational and not punitive”, preferring the term to disciplinary measures.

He did not go into further detail about the action the boys had faced over the incident.

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