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Gauteng school bans pupils from discussing Palestinian occupation issue

Redhill School in Sandton has banned all discussion on the Palestinian occupation issue at the school.Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Redhill School in Sandton has banned all discussion on the Palestinian occupation issue at the school.Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Published May 18, 2021

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Redhill School in Sandton has come under fire on social media for banning all discussion on the Palestinian occupation issue at the school.

A statement released by the school on Friday addressed to the staff and parents from the executive head Joseph Gerassi said the banning of such discussion was to prevent conflict at the school.

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“As most of you are aware, there has been a flare-up in violence between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.

“This is an incredibly contentious and divisive issue, merely writing this letter has put me at risk with certain people. However, given the circumstances, I feel I have an obligation to ensure that this bitter conflict, which is busy tearing people apart in the Middle East, does not do so within the Redhill community.

“At the outset, let me say that I do believe that this issue should not be discussed and debated.” the statement read.

Gerassi said given the age and emotions of the pupils at the school, he believed that conversations over the Palestinian occupation would not benefit them.

“In the best interest of the Redhill community, one that is multicultural, accepting of differences, and supportive of inclusion, I urge all families to encourage children not to discuss this issue at school and to desist from cancelling any other student on social media. However, strongly you as a family feel about the conflict and who may be right or wrong, this does not give anyone a right to bully, cancel, be unkind or discriminate against anyone else,” Gerassi penned.

Support for Palestinians has grown over the past few weeks with protests happening across the country. This is after at least 26 Palestinians were killed, including nine children, by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. About 122 people have been left wounded.

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Israeli forces stormed the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem at the weekend, firing rubber-coated rounds, stun grenades and tear gas at worshippers. Hamas has since retaliated by firing rockets from Gaza towards Israel.

The Redhill statement left Twitter peeps angry over the violation of freedom of speech.

Iram Yusuf tweeted: “You claim to be a progressive school but you're banning free speech? Tell me, do you also whitewash South Africa's apartheid when you teach it?

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“Children must be given the space to debate and nurture thought. That's how they grow into conscientious individuals who don't accept apartheid states.”

Juanene Frydman wrote: “As both a parent and as a professional in the space of ‘dialogue’ it is imperative that ‘facilitated safe spaces’ at school are created for the students to speak to what is happening in the world.”

Alex Moodl posted: “Completely unacceptable and a violation of freedom of speech! @RedhillSchool, you guys are failing as a school and at your responsibility to encourage debate on these topics- irrespective of how sensitive they are.”

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