Arriving for Volunteer Project, Cape Town Jewish High School Students Confronted by Anti-Zionist Slogans
Jewish high school volunteers in Cape Town were confronted by anti-Zionist posters and slogans when they arrived at a public school in the city on Tuesday to participate in an ambitious building project.
The students, from the Herzlia School, represent an ongoing outreach project to Vista High, a public secondary school. Herzlia students have undertaken to upgrade Vista High’s library, build a playground area and engage in learning exchanges. But when they arrived at the campus, they were confronted by what a senior member of staff told parents was “a number of anti-Zionist posters” prominently displayed in the office window of Vista High’s deputy principal.
Among the slogans on display was “Yes to Judaism, No to Zionism” – a favorite theme of the tiny anti-Zionist Neturei Karta sect that has been adopted by the global BDS movement – and “Israel is a terrorist state guilty of ethnic cleansing in Palestine.”
“These posters were clearly designed to offend, resulting in our pupils and staff feeling extremely uncomfortable,” Geoff Cohen, Herzlia’s Director of Education, wrote in his note to parents. After being alerted to the posters, Cohen went to Vista High School where he demanded to see the principal. The principal told Cohen that both she and the Vista High students were deeply appreciative of Herzlia’s outreach, placing the blame for the posters squarely on her deputy principal. According to Cohen, the deputy principal was “completely intransigent” despite being repeatedly asked to remove the posters.
Cohen praised the Herzlia students for “getting on with the job at hand showing incredible maturity, dignity and diplomacy.” At no point did students or staff face any physical danger, he said.
“Our pupils and teachers continued with the project in high spirits and mixed amicably with the Vista pupils,” Cohen said. “I have never been so proud of our pupils!”
But Tuesday’s incident has nonetheless resulted in a suspension of the Vista High building project. Cohen said the suspension would be lifted if the deputy principal apologizes, the offending posters are removed, and the school’s principal clearly endorses the project with Herzlia.
Vista High’s deputy principal has been identified as Ismail Esau, whose Facebook page displays a Palestinian flag flying atop the Al Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
Among the causes linked to by Esau from his Facebook page is an online petition entitled “Stop Killing the Children of Palestine!!” Among the conspiracy theories promoted by the petition is the claim that Israel operates spies at the “highest levels” of the US government and the charge that “Israel uses torture routinely in jails (only against non-Jews of course).”
Cohen emphasized in his communication with parents that Herzlia “is a proudly and unashamedly Zionist school…we do not tolerate malicious and mischievous anti-Zionist rhetoric.”