Pretoria‎, South Africa
Pretoria‎, South AfricaiStock

A South African lawmaker is under fire after calling for a Cape Town-based Jewish day school to be “deregistered” from the Department of Education’s list of schools, JNS reported Tuesday.

Aishah Cassiem, a member of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF), called for United Herzlia Schools (Herzlia High School) to be “deregistered, based on the school being pro-Israel” during a debate in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament which took place on June 15, according to the report.

Cassiem, who was wearing the signature red overalls of the EFF and a keffiyeh, said in her statement that the issue was not about the Jewish community or Cape Town-based parents sending their children to a Jewish school to uphold their religious beliefs.

The real issue, she stated, was how Herzlia High School “enforces Zionism on Jewish students and encourages the students to participate in Apartheid activities and inhumane practices and encourages them to join Israel Defense Forces after completing grade 12.”

The comments came after Herzlia High School director of education Geoff Cohen and the school’s executive director, Andries van Renseen, disclosed in an interview on Israeli TV that approximately 22% of their students go to Israel after they finish school and had joined the Israeli army.

Daniel Bloch, executive director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, told JNS, “The Cape SAJBD is deeply concerned by the EFF’s latest public attack on members of the Herzlia Board, displaying photographs and names on social media.”

“The Cape SAJBD will not stand by and allow this political grandstanding to continue. It is a shameful attack on the largest and most prestigious Jewish school in the Western Cape. We will continue to support Herzlia and its leadership and will fight the ANC, EFF and all other organizations’ reprehensible attempts to deregister the school. This is just the latest unsuccessful attempt by anti-Israel lobbyists to bully and intimidate the Cape Town Jewish community,” he added.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) denounced Cassiem’s call.

“Another bigot who tries to hide her anti-Semitism under the banner of anti-Zionism. What’s next, a demand to purge Jewish prayer books of age-old prayers chanted daily for 2,000 years that emphasizes the dream of a People yearning to return to Zion and Jerusalem? Every nation has the right to pursue its dreams and destiny. We are proud that in 2023, some 7 million Jews are citizens of the democratic Jewish State of Israel, and for all of those who are building their future in the ancient homeland of their forefathers,” said SWC Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action Agenda, Rabbi Abraham Cooper.

Anti-Israel sentiments remain prevalent in South Africa, where the government has frequently accused Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs.

Earlier this year, South Africa Rugby withdrew an invitation to Israeli club Tel Aviv Heat to compete in a second-tier competition.

Last year, South Africa's former chief justice was ordered to apologize for comments he made two years earlier pledging support for Israel.

In 2019, the country announced plans to downgrade its embassy in Tel Aviv.

A year earlier, South Africa withdrew its ambassador to Israel in protest against the deadly violence along the Israel-Gaza border.

The decision came after the Hamas terrorist organization led violent and mass terrorist acts in protest against the inauguration of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem. Hamas later openly admitted that most of those who were killed in those violent riots were members of the group.