Cape Board unbowed by threats against Herzlia
“We’re giving [Western Cape Premier] Alan Winde until the end of the year to close down [Herzlia] school, or the EFF [Economic Freedom Fighters] South Africa will have to!” crowed Nazier Paulsen on the social media platform X.
His incitement, along with other similar comments on social media, was part of a wider attack on United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town by extremist politicians and individuals in South Africa and beyond.
As shocking as this is, the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) isn’t distressed. Says Cape SAJBD chairperson, Adrienne Jacobson, “We finds these claims to be without merit. When these comments were made, we declined the opportunity to respond publicly as we felt we couldn’t dignify their comments with a public statement. We immediately reached out to both Premier Alan Winde and Minister of Education David Maynier, who reaffirmed their support and assured us that in no way will the school be closed or deregistered.”
These attacks tie in with similar incitement and violent intimidation of Jewish communities around the globe since the Hamas massacre of 7 October. This includes a petition on change.org calling for Herzlia to be shut down because the school “unconditionally and unquestioningly supports the state of Israel and promotes this in its education”.
“We should get their names and addresses,” wrote one supporter of the petition, while another wrote, “Nice place for a bomb.”
“Brand them so they can wear their shame on their foreheads”; “Julius [Malema, the head of the EFF], please do your thing”; “We’re breeding local Nazis right here in South Africa,” wrote others. The petition is now under review and cannot be accessed.
Meanwhile, local politician Mehmet Vefa Dag, who is known for his hateful rhetoric, wrote, “Shut down the baby killer’s high school,” and made up a false statistic about Herzlia alumni serving in the Israel Defense Forces.
Says Jacobson, “There’s always the possibility of a protest. However, the City of Cape Town has zero tolerance for protests which incite violence and intimidation, and will ensure that no organisation is allowed to protest in this manner, especially outside a school. If they do happen to come to the school, the students inside will be protected and both law enforcement and SAPS [the South African Police Service] will be contacted to come and disperse the illegal protesters.
“There’s absolutely no chance of Herzlia being closed down,” she says. “This has been confirmed by both the premier and the minister of education. Herzlia is one of the top schools in the country, and will continue to provide world-class education to its students. The war in Israel will continue for some time, and baseless claims against Herzlia will continue to surface on social media. We’ll continue to quash these and protect the rights of the school, its pupils, and our community. We request that members of our community refrain from sharing things on social media, as you’re only increasing awareness of the anti-Israel movement. Don’t give it the satisfaction of promoting its fake news.
“We call on the community to remain calm and rational during this period,” she says. “We reiterate that each one of us needs to live a strong and proud Jewish way of life. The Cape SAJBD will continue to protect our right to be Jewish and protect our Jewish way of life.”