The matter surrounding Joshua Broomberg over the past two weeks – importantly – is not just about the Jewish community or the Gaza conflict, it’s emblematic of the courage a country like South Africa is still in dire need of and an outlook and attitude many of us would do well to emulate.
King David Victory Park High School deputy head boy and South African national debate team captain Joshua Broomberg is a resounding symbol of the continual need for us to test South African society’s commitment to an equitable social order and the preservation of universal human rights; a theme that underpinned the apartheid struggle and continues to alter the form of South Africa today. Broomberg – as a 17 year-old high schooler – also highlights the usefulness youthful interjection in South African discourse.
Having been publicly ostracised by the members of the Jewish community amid a petition to have him stripped of his South African national debate team colours and removed from his deputy head-boy position for supporting a two-state solution to the Gaza conflict, he must be commended for being the latest South African citizen to display courage in defense of human rights even when the threat of ostracisation loomed large. He’s a fitting reminder also of the importance of independent, humanity-centered thought in the context of a democratic South Africa – a nation still divided along race, class and gender lines and often lacking in constructive debate.
This week, Live SA’s Hakim Malema spoke to Markus Trengrove, a 20-year-old, third-year law student at UCT about the incident. Trengrove is the current President of the Black Law Students Forum at UCT, a former Chairperson of SASCO and founder of Triangle UCT. He matriculated from St John’s College with nine Distinctions and comes from an Afrikaans family that has always been involved in law and politics.
Live VIP/Hakim Malema: What does this say about the South African Jewish community?
Markus Trengrove: Culture is valuable because it puts you in touch with your humanity. If culture obstructs from embracing humanity, one should lean towards humanity rather than nationalism.
HK: What effect will this have on people wanting to show solidarity (toward Palestine)?
MT: What was good about it is that a lot of people that were moderate have been radicalised [and subsequently] felt they could not sit on the fence because some are far right pro-Israel. Josh has opened up the middle ground for Jewish people in South Africa to oppose the actions of the Israeli state without being perceived as anti-Zionist.
HK: Were Joshua Broomberg’s rights violated? And if so how?
MT: He has to accept the response, but as soon as it becomes hate speech its counter productive to democracy and his rights.
HK: What is the symbolism of a Jewish person openly opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestine?
MT: The incident threatens freedom of debate, because he is not anti-Zionism, he is pro human rights. The incident brings that to light.
HK: Why are you in support of Joshua keeping his titles [deputy headship, SA debating team captain]?
MT: I don’t think anyone should be unduly labelled or sanctioned for standing up for human rights. That not only stifles debate but threatens democracy.
HK: Do the South African youth have an important role to play in raising awareness about human rights violations like these, how so?
MT: Yes they do have a role to play but are less inclined toward it. People born in post-1994 South Africa often take democracy for granted and they don’t question the cornerstones of their freedom. The older generation have an attuned perspective on human rights and the necessity to preserve our democracy.
HK: Why are young people not more encouraged to publicly criticise and engage social/political issues?
MT: It’s not that the youth are discouraged, but perhaps because in light of our recent history of upheaval, the youth may feel that today, there is nothing to stand against.
The #2014Elections has set an exciting and vibrant context for the future of South Africa politics to unfold upon. What happens now that you’ve voted? How do we gauge whether we’re “moving the country forward”, whether we’re “bringing change” or “economic freedom in our lifetime”? Stick with #LiveVIPZA and we’ll give you analysis, debates, comments, polls and all YOU need to understand, enjoy and interact with SA politics.