I wish to express my support for the two students who refused to stand to attention as their school choir sang Hatikva – the Israeli national anthem. Instead, as the saying goes, "they took the knee" a perfectly peaceful expression of dissent popularised by American athletes. As has been reported their school authorities, Herzlia School in Cape Town, says the two students face "disciplinary and educational" consequences for their "deliberate and flagrant disregard for the ethos of the school."
I'm sure a great many South Africans might be shocked to learn that the national anthem of another country is force-fed young people attending the Herzlia schools – for there are several in the country and I believe they all follow the same tradition. I wonder what they would think if the German-language or Portuguese-language schools sang the national anthems of those countries? I cannot think of any other example where this is done on a regular basis if at all. And I am sure that Muslim-inclined schools do not sing the Saudi or Egyptian anthems.
Perhaps those students in attending the school accepted the singing of the Hatikva in the first place as I myself once did at Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs. However, what the school authorities surely need to take into account is the current situation in Israel which must clearly have troubled the young minds of those who they are preparing to punish. No student of their age can ignore the violations of international law and Palestinian human rights by Israel that have become a common occurrence and so visible in the electronic and print media.
We all witness the mass shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza; the arrest and beating of children for throwing stones; the endless lines of Palestinians at the checkpoints; the destruction of homes and precious olive trees and so much more brutality. Who at a school like Herzlia will be unaware of Israel's growing alliance with ultra right-wing leaders from Brazil to Hungary and Poland, not to mention the racist Donald Trump, courting and being courted by Prime Minister Netanyahu or the fact that the right wing Christian evangelical movement is Israel's new best friend?
Who in the Herzlia educational system can be unaware of Israel's new basic law which declares that "Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people and they have an exclusive right to national self-determination within it". We are speaking of South Africans here who have grown up in a country where nobody is excluded from being part of the nation; where the Zionist establishment hypocritically prattles on about learning the values of Nelson Mandela's reconciliation. It would appear to me that some of the students, like those who have "taken the knee", are keen to follow such principles and consequently have grown to be ashamed of having to stand and sing Israel's national anthem.
Netanyahu has declared of Israel's new law: "This is a defining moment in the annals of Zionism and the history of the state of Israel." There are Israelis and Jews elsewhere who are hanging their heads in shame at that. Israel's racist apartheid policies have become abundantly clear to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. I dare say that young Jews, not only in America, but here in South Africa are awakening to the truth and are no longer prepared to be bullied and brainwashed. They put to shame the Zionist values that Herzlia's authorities are so obviously intent on enforcing. They need to be applauded for the stand they have taken in bravely bending the knee.
This piece first appeared in the Saturday Star in South Africa.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.