By Al Qalam Reporter
Hundreds across the country are rallying in support of a Cape Muslim deputy principal who faces disciplinary hearings on charges of misconduct on December 7 – and possible dismissal – for labeling Israel a “Terrorist State” while on school premises.
Ismail Esau, a history teacher and deputy principal of the Vista High School in Bo-Kaap is being hauled over the coals after the principal, Charlotte Little, complained to the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) that Esau had stuck two posters on the classroom window that read: “Judaism is not Zionism” and “Israel is a terrorist state guilty of ethnic cleansing in Palestine”. It is also alleged that after a staff meeting that he called the principal, Charlotte Little, “a coward”.
In an interview with Al-Qalam, Esau who had been with the school for 27 years, said he will attend the hearings accompanied by his SADTU representative and his lawyer. “InshaAllah, I will survive”, adding he has the full support of his colleagues and the community.
Esau’s case has gained traction after an online petition was circulated. Within 24 hours, over 880 people had signed. The targeted number is 1000. It read: “We, the undersigned reject with contempt the actions of the WCED and the principal of Vista SSS accusing Ismail Esau of misconduct due to his public opposition against Apartheid Zionist Israel. We call the so-called charges be dropped with immediate effect.”
Social media was alight with comments: Yusuf Sardar wrote: “WCED has no business to charge Mr Esau for having an opinion. It is very clear that WCED supports Israel and its ethnic cleansing policy”.
Nazley Khan wrote: “It is his constitutional right to protest against injustice. I support him.”
Saadia Nurrudin wrote: “Israel is an Apartheid state. If the voices of the oppressed during apartheid regime was silent in South Africa, the people of South Africa would still be under an oppressive system.”
According to a timeline of events sent to Al-Qalam, Tensions started rising at the Vista High School when the principal began an outreach programme with a Jewish school, the Herzlia High School. Esau claimed that this program was initiated without consultation with the staff of Vista High. The programme involves Herzlia students tutoring struggling learners at Vista. Various staff members had apparently expressed concerns and objections regarding the program, particularly the school’s Library Committee which feels marginalized and undermined by this program.
Since the inception of Herzlia High’s outreach project with Vista over 14 months ago, Esau had voiced his objection to the collaboration because of Jewish School’s overt association with Zionism.
On July, 27 this year, Esau put up two posters on the windows of his classrooms against Zionism and Israel’s ethnic cleansing alongside posters of Mandela and Malcolm X. The two impugned posters read: “Yes to Judaism, No to Zionism” And “Israel is a terrorist State guilty of ethnic cleansing in Palestine”
Esau claims that the posters were to serve a dual purpose: To make a statement to the principal of his displeasure at the Herzlia outreach project; and to make the Herzlia learners (who arrived at the school for purposes of the program), to know that there are people who support Palestine.
On September 6, on the day learners of Herzlia High School were visiting, the posters were spotted and Esau was summoned to the Principal’s office that same day. Herzlia’s Director of Education, Geoff Cohen, was also present at the meeting.
Cohen informed Esau that the posters were offensive and demanded they be removed. When Esau refused, Cohen threatened to discontinue the outreach program.
Esau informed him that he was not against Judaism, but against Zionism and the oppressive regime of Israel – and he would not remove the posters. Cohen then replied, “Then the program cannot continue”.
The Muslim Judicial Council, the Bo-kaap Civic Association, imams from the surrounding area, progressive principals and the most of the school’s teachers have come out in support of Esau.
The “concerned teachers” of the Vista High School circulated a letter. “Our deputy is a son of Bo-kaap. Rightly so he expressed his opinion, and it did not matter (to them). Now that the Zionist has expressed their opinion, they are heard.
We take strong offence as to how they have portrayed our school and seek assistance because the department has already made a decision to stand by those who visited our school. We have the right to freedom of expression. We have done nothing to harm our learners or the learners of any other school. Zionists need to hear the truth.”