Disciplinary action is being taken against two Jewish students in South Africa who kneeled down while the Israeli anthem played instead of standing in a display of support for Palestinians.
The grade nine students, who attend the United Herzlia Middle School in Cape Town, South Africa, knelt down in support of Palestinians and in protest against Israel’s continued persecution of Palestinians and its violations of international law.
Their decision to “take a knee” reflects the same form of protest that the American football star Colin Kaepernick performed when he kneeled down throughout the United States’ anthem before a game in 2016. He did so in order to protest against rampant police brutality against black people in the US, and was harshly criticised for the “unpatriotic” decision.
“The boys’ inappropriate kneeling action demonstrated deliberate and flagrant disregard for the ethos of the school,” the school’s Director of Education, Geoff Cohen, said in a letter sent to parents.
Cohen informed the Jerusalem Post that the two boys kneeled in protest against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, but assured the newspaper that they were “Zionist in essence”.
When posed with the question on whether the students were being punished just for their political opinions, Cohen claimed they were “entitled to their opinions” and that the school “encourages debate and always encourages kids to question”.
“We are a proudly Zionist school,” he said, but insisted that “the forum that they chose to protest in our opinion was embarrassing for us and for many people there.” He concluded that the boys had faced “consequences” that were “highly educational and not punitive,” without providing further details on what their exact punishment was.