Originally published in Independent Online
A teacher has allegedly been fired for showing support for Israel.
Following the recent violence in the Middle East, Sudesh Mooloo, 52, an Afrikaans teacher at Laudium Secondary School in Gauteng, posted a WhatsApp status which said: “I am not anti-Palestine but I am anti-Hamas. I stand with Israel.”
The status was posted last Tuesday. According to Estelle Holworthy, a relative, within hours he had received several calls and messages criticising him as well as threatening him and his family.
“People from the community were telling him he was a lover of children being killed. He was told he was a supporter of apartheid. He was informed by a resident that a WhatsApp group was started against him. In this group, people were planning a protest outside his home.”
Holworthy said when Mooloo went to school the next day he received a message that people were on their way to school to hurt him. Fearing his safety, and that of the pupils, Mooloo informed the principal of the situation and left.
According to Holworthy, when he called the principal a few hours later, he was told that the school governing body (SGB) did not want him back.
“The principal told him the SGB was getting flak for his comments and they were looking to terminate his services with immediate effect.”
He subsequently received a Whatsapp message from a resident that said: “Slms brothers, I wanted to inform you that the contract between LSS and Mr Mooloo has been terminated. His last day with LSS was today. Jazakallah.”
When Mooloo tried to speak to the principal after this, he said he was ignored. According to Holworthy, Mooloo has reported the matter to the Gauteng Department of Education.
She has been speaking on behalf of Mooloo because he is not well.
“Mooloo lives in Laudium and has been a teacher at the school for 25 years. Everybody knows he is a Christian. He posts scriptures on his personal social media accounts all the time. This post was never intended to offend, hurt or harm anyone.
“What made the community of Laudium upset was the words ’stand with Israel’. What the community does not understand is when he said “stand with Israel” he was not speaking from a political perspective. It was from a biblical perspective.
“There are many verses in the Bible in which God instructed us or compels us to pray for peace in Israel and to stand by Israel.
“So when Sudesh said “stand by Israel”, people just assumed he was for the killings in Palestine and for all the acts of Israel toward Palestine. But this is not what Sudesh was saying. He was merely following the biblical instruction to pray for peace in Israel. Nobody is for war or killing people.”
Holworthy said the ordeal had taken a toll on his health and family.
“His children were bullied on social media. It is wrong. Sudesh should not be victimised. We live in a country where our rights are enshrined in and protected by the Constitution.
“It upholds the right of all South African citizens to express their religious beliefs and condemns the notion that any person should be victimised on the basis of such beliefs. But this is not the case for Sudesh.”
Steve Mobana, the spokesperson for the Department of Education in Gauteng, said Mooloo had not been dismissed but was on sick leave. He was unable to comment further on the matter.
Wendy Kahn, the national director at the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said the conflict in the Middle East had resulted in “heightened emotions and inflammatory rhetoric” in South Africa.
“Instead of bringing with it constructive debate and dialogue it recurrently ends up in intolerance and divisiveness among fellow South Africans. In the past weeks, we have seen intimidation and threats directed at people who have differing political opinions and views on the conflict.”
She said this included schoolchildren, university students, business people, and professionals, all of whom have been targeted and demonised for daring to express other perspectives.
“We condemn this culture of silencing debate and discussion. Mr Mooloo is yet another casualty of this type of bullying. This vengeful campaign has resulted in unacceptable victimisation, to the point of someone’s livelihood being lost for simply daring to say something counter to the current hate-filled narrative.”
Muhammed Desai, the director of Africa4Palestine, said standing with Israel was akin to supporting apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany.
“There are consequences for publicly stating ’I stand with Israel’. So long as Israel does not respect international law and human rights there will increasingly be consequences for stating ’I stand with Israel’.
“The issue of any person being dismissed for bringing their institution into disrepute is a matter that must be handled by the relevant institutions in line with their policies and respect to labour laws.”
Professor George Devenish, a constitutional law expert, said South Africans should keep alive the vision for peace.
“We need to remember that we live in a democratic country which has a Constitution that allows freedom of expression as long as it is not propagating war or inciting violence or spreading hatred. We need to explore this before we react.”
The SGB and the school declined to comment.
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