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South African political party threatens Jewish day school

Economic Freedom Front MLP Aishah Cassiem called for United Herzlia Schools to be deregistered over its pro-Israel stance.

Posters bearing the logo of South Africa's United Herzlia Schools. Credit: Courtesy.
Posters bearing the logo of South Africa's United Herzlia Schools. Credit: Courtesy.

South African political party Economic Freedom Front (EFF) has called for Cape Town-based Jewish day school United Herzlia Schools (Herzlia High School) to be “deregistered” from the Department of Education’s list of schools.

EFF Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL) Aishah Cassiem called for United Herzlia Schools to be “deregistered, based on the school being pro-Israel” during a debate in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament on 15 June.

Cassiem, wearing the signature red overalls of the EFF and a Palestinian keffiyeh, said in her statement that the issue was not about the Jewish community or Cape Town-based parents sending their children to a Jewish school to uphold their religious beliefs. The real issue, according to Cassiem, was how Herzlia High School “enforces Zionism on Jewish students and encourages the students to participate in Apartheid activities and inhumane practices and encourages them to join [the] Israel Defense Forces after completing grade 12.”

This followed a call by ruling African National Council (ANC) provincial education spokesperson Muhammad Khalid Sayed for Education Member of the Executive Council David Maynier, in the Western Cape Legislature, to intervene in Herzlia High School’s  Zionist education.

Herzlia High School director of education Geoff Cohen and the school’s executive director, Andries van Renseen, disclosed in an interview on Israeli TV that approximately 22% of their students go to Israel after they finish school and had joined the Israeli army.

Maynier responded by saying the question had been asked to deflect attention from the government’s entanglements with Russia. South Africa has been criticized internationally for seemingly siding with Russia in relation to its war with Ukraine. It was obvious, said Maynier, that there was an attempt to use a school to draw attention away from the international relations shambles of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Daniel Bloch, executive director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told JNS, “The Cape SAJBD is deeply concerned by the EFF’s latest public attack on members of the Herzlia Board, displaying photographs and names on social media.

“The Cape SAJBD will not stand by and allow this political grandstanding to continue. It is a shameful attack on the largest and most prestigious Jewish school in the Western Cape. We will continue to support Herzlia and its leadership and will fight the ANC, EFF and all other organizations’ reprehensible attempts to deregister the school.

“This is just the latest unsuccessful attempt by anti-Israel lobbyists to bully and intimidate the Cape Town Jewish community.  

Rowan Polovin, National Chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, said, “The South African government—and all opposition parties—should focus their attention not on foreign conflicts but on the issues affecting South Africans, specifically those relating to our youth. These include our expansive school drop-out rates, pit latrines, lack of food, water and electricity in our government schools, against an inexplicably high youth unemployment rate.”

Relations between Jerusalem and Pretoria have soured in recent years; South Africa’s foreign policy, although supportive of a two-state solution, favors the Palestinians. The EFF’s targeting of Herzlia High School is the latest move in a campaign aimed at the Cape Town Jewish community.

Several weeks ago the leader of political party Al Jama-ah called on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to “arrest Zionist bodies in Cape Town,” claiming they are “after our students at UCT [the University of Cape Town].” Al Jama-ah publicly called on the SAPS to execute the arrest of the “two bodies” (SAJBD and SAZF) which he said were “advocating for racism and apartheid Israel”. No arrest warrant has been issued.

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