Teen in Gaza Facebook storm says sorry

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Copy of st Josh Broomberg 3 FACEBOOK King David Victory Park deputy head boy Josh Broomberg, right, and his debating team. Photo: Facebook

Johannesburg - King David Victory Park deputy head boy Joshua Broomberg has apologised for the furore over a picture of him wearing a Palestinian scarf, the SA Board of Jewish Education said on Tuesday.

“This has been a learning opportunity for the 17-year-old pupil concerned (Broomberg) and he has both explained his stance in a later posting and genuinely apologised for the hurt it produced,” the board said in a statement.

“We acknowledge that the picture posted was insensitive and hurtful and was seen as such in the community.

“We appreciate his clarification to the community and he has further submitted an apology to his school for his actions. His apology has been accepted.”

The board said Broomberg had had a great deal to offer to the school over the years and had achieved notable successes.

“We recognise that the conflict that is taking place in the Middle East is devastating and the loss of all life and injuries sustained are deeply painful to us,” the board said.

The board considered the matter to be closed, with no further action to be taken.

On Monday, the board distanced itself from an online petition calling for the removal of Broomberg as deputy head boy.

The board, which runs the school, said decisions at the school or interactions with students should not be made from pressure received from an “online storm”.

“We are trying to keep ourselves above that, even though the rhetoric is harmful to the school and the students,” general director Rabbi Craig Kacev said.

“We cannot make decisions based on that.”

Broomberg was tagged last week in a photo on social media platform Facebook wearing the keffiyeh, recognised as a Palestinian symbol, and Palestinian badges.

Broomberg, in Thailand for the World Schools Debating Championship, is pictured with two others wearing the same attire.

The picture's caption read: “Team South Africa wearing Palestinian badges and keffiyehs to show our opposition to human rights violations carried out against the people of Palestine. #WSDC2014”.

The online petition was launched soon thereafter, calling for Broomberg's removal as deputy head boy and as a member of the school's student representative council, as he had brought the school into disrepute.

By Tuesday morning, more than 2 000 people had signed the petition.

On Friday, Broomberg posted a statement on his Facebook page where he apologised as the picture was not intended to “create an uproar”, “offend, or upset”.

However, he said he was a proud South African Jew, proud to attend a Jewish day school, and was also a Zionist.

He believed in Israel's right to exist and defend itself, while all citizens in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza had an absolute right to live in peace and security.

Broomberg said while he loved and supported the state of Israel, he still rejected and criticised some of its actions.

“In fact, I consider it my duty to contribute to the growing worldwide discussion surrounding the desperate need for a quick end and lasting solution to this pernicious conflict,” he said.

“In my eyes, this criticism is not a betrayal, but actually the only honest and true way to show my patriotism and commitment to Israel, as well as my belief in human rights and the entitlement of all citizens of all countries to those rights.

“To improve, we must criticise.” - Sapa



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