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We may not like David Teeger’s support of the Israeli army, but we should not persecute him for expressing this

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Anton Harber is executive director of the Campaign for Free Expression.

The Proteas under-19 cricket captain’s remarks in support of the Israeli army did not celebrate genocide or express a bloodthirsty desire for revenge. He has the right to say what he wants to say.

It has often been said in recent weeks following the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup triumph that sport is the one thing that unites us, albeit briefly. But this week’s David Teeger incident shows us how easily sport can also be used to bring out division, hatred and intolerance.

Teeger, the schoolboy captain of the Proteas under-19 national cricket team, is being investigated because of remarks he made in support of the Israeli army after he won the Rising Star category at the Absa Jewish Achiever Awards in Johannesburg.

“I’m now the rising star, but the true rising stars are the young soldiers in Israel,” he was reported to have said, “And I’d like to dedicate [my award] to the state of Israel and every single soldier fighting so that we can live and thrive in the diaspora.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Inquiry to investigate SA under-19 cricket captain’s pro-Israel comments at awards ceremony

The Palestine Solidarity Alliance laid a complaint with the cricket authorities and Cricket South Africa appointed the highly respected Advocate Wim Trengove SC to conduct an independent inquiry into whether Teeger breached their code of conduct.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was quoted saying Teeger saw fit “to honour the genocidaires, rendering himself unfit to represent our country on the world cricketing stage”.

I am not going to go into the merits of Teeger’s views, other than to point out that he did not celebrate genocide or express a bloodthirsty desire for revenge – which may have taken him into the category of illegal hate speech.

If it came anywhere close to hate speech, one can see that this might breach the sporting code. But short of that, if they go after Teeger they would be signalling that their selection criteria will take into account whether a player has unpopular views on contentious subjects.

I don’t agree with his view (and signed the letter from 700+ South African Jews calling for a ceasefire), but that does not stop me being deeply concerned that he should face official censure for what he said. I will defend his right to say what he wants to say.

The Israel-Gaza war is a deeply divisive one, playing out in the streets and corridors of power across the world, made more difficult by the loudness of the extremist voices on both sides shouting down each other’s and every other view. Unless you are among those on either side who want to see the total annihilation of the other side, you have to at least be open to the possibility that there are different views on this issue and sitting here in South Africa we need to have them all thrown into the mix for an enlightening discussion over how to find a solution to one of the world’s most ugly deadlocks.

BDS might be angered and revolted by Teeger’s views, as they are entitled to be, and to express their views. They can protest or boycott or use the legitimate means available to them in a democracy to try to make him change his mind. But should the authorities silence him, and forbid him from holding heartfelt views?

Will our sports players be made to choose between expressing their views or playing for their country? Will they be forbidden from expressing unpopular views? Will this extend to other controversial or minority views? What other factors might be brought in to override cricketing skill as criteria for selection? Where does this stop?

The Teeger affair is deeply concerning because it is a clear sign of a growing intolerance for views that are deemed unacceptable and a desire not to even hear views that don’t fall into line. It indicates the increasing dominance of those whose moral certainty overrules any willingness to acknowledge anything of value on the other side.

Punish Teeger and it won’t just be our cricket that suffers.

The cricket code should be interpreted within the framework of our Constitution and the core values it espouses of openness and tolerance. The only speech that is not protected by our Constitution is hate speech, propaganda for war or incitement to violence.

Short of that, we may not like Teeger’s views, but we should not persecute him for expressing them.

Similarly, the Democratic Alliance – which demoted party frontbencher Ghaleb Cachalia for speaking out on the same issue before there was an agreed party line – needs to recognise that if they are to be a diverse, broadly representative party, they will have in their ranks different views on issues such as this where passions run high.

Unless they adopt the ANC’s form of democratic centralism – where one is expected to fall in line with the majority – they will need to make space for the fact that even people who share core values might have different views on such difficult topics.

These cases reflect a global problem: too much shouting, too little listening. It is a situation where extremism triumphs through brashness because more considered voices are drowned out. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    Was not the ceremony where the reported words were said, held before October 7th when events on that day “kicked off” the present Middle East crisis?

  • Agf Agf says:

    Good for him. Brave young man.

  • virginia crawford says:

    I do support free speech and much as I disagree with his view, he shouldn’t be punished. However, this lack of judgement calls into question his role as a captain; but he is a teenager so hopefully he will realise how toxic a mix sport and politics can be. We certainly don’t want to copy the US in the way treated Colin Kaepernick was treated for ‘taking the knee’. He hasn’t played since.

    • J vN says:

      Kaepernick got injured and had surgeries at the start of the 2016 season. Before that, in 2015, and I quote: “In 2015, Kaepernick struggled under new head coach Jim Tomsula. A day after a 27–6 collapse at St. Louis in Week 8, Kaepernick lost his starting job to backup Blaine Gabbert for Week 9 against Atlanta”

      His omission had far more to do with his poor performance than his stupid political stunts.

      • Bob Dubery says:

        There were injuries and a loss of form, and this was probably coincidental. But there was also a US President publicly calling for the firing of any “son of a bitch” who took the knee.

        CSA has a code of conduct. Teeger plays under that code, and has played representative cricket for SA. Whether or not he understood it, he is subject to to those codes. And this is what the enquiry (chaired by a respected advocate) is about: Was there a contravention of any CSA code?

        What would be helpful is if two things were explained to young players
        1) You play under the auspices of the CSA and thus their codes of conduct apply
        2) There is no such thing as a private function. Anything you say will get out very quickly and be all social media far quicker than you can imagine.

        (2) especially reminds me of Graeme Smith who, early in his career, made some off the cuff remarks at a private function about a recent ex-player. Before the day was out his comments were all over the press.

        The then UCB supported Smith in what he said, but also said that they needed to tell him that nothing he said was off the record any more. Somebody should have explained all of this to Teeger.

        Let’s not kid ourselves. A large part of the reaction to this, and our ideas of freedom of speech depends on our own positions. Imagine that Teeger had dedicated his award to brave trans-sexual teenagers. You think there wouldn’t be an outcry? Of course there would be, just from another faction.

        • Pieter van de Venter says:

          Under a obvious racially charged Lawless Naidoo?? Ask the players of last year’s T20 world cup.!!

        • Iota Jot says:

          Can you explain, then, why Rabada wasn’t similarly reprimanded or why there wasn’t an investigation set up after he tweeted (in 21) in support of Palestine? Either one allows one’s players to make (non-inflammatory) political statements or one does not. CSA cannot set itself up as the moral arbiter of what can and cannot be said by its players.

    • Geoff Coles says:

      I suspect CSA will remove him from the captaincy, maybe too from playing….embarrassing

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      Why does it call into question his captaincy?

      • Malcolm Mitchell says:

        I agree – some of the best captains, and I will not mention names are have been not politically adept. Are you looking for good captain or a politician to captain the team?

  • virginia crawford says:

    Does ABSA sponsor any other religiously exclusive awards? The Christian/ Anglican/ Catholic Achiever awards? Very odd if it doesn’t represent all its clients/ customers.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      This puzzled me too. You’d think that any corporate that sponsored an award only for practitioners of a certain faith is making a rod for their own back.

      I’m not saying they cannot or should not do it. But I was surprised to see their name attached to that reward.

  • Henry Henry says:

    So Naidoo & Co at CSA saw fit to set up legal giant Trengove against a little Jewish boy?
    For an “investigation”? To ostensibly give it credibility. But if he decides they should hold a disciplinary hearing, the little boy has already been found guilty.
    Trengove would be better advised to withdraw and keep out of this sordid affair.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      No. They appointed a respected advocate to chair the hearing. He will hear the evidence and then evaluate it in the context of CSA’s own codes. This is a better, though more expensive solution than letting CSA decide for themselves. This way they are seen to not be playing police, prosecutor and judge.

    • Pieter van de Venter says:

      I suspect they want to avoid the sage with last year’s witch hunt. I do not know the man, but I suspect Trengrove will make this a very brief investigation and tell CSA to go and play in the sand. Read the constitution before sending crap like this – and remeber the few million payment.

      • concerned individual says:

        You might be right but what respectable advocate even accepts the role in this kind of so-called “investigation” of a teenager under these circumstances?

  • Niek Joubert says:

    The rot already set in when the cricketers were required to “bent the knee” in solidarity of BLM. De Kock refused and was banned. Eventually he wilted under pressure.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      That was a decision taken after discussion within the team. You know, like the DA’s discussion about the conflict in the middle East after which Cachalia was censured for speaking out against the majority decision.

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        From reports, it was not a discussion. It was an instruction together with minimum 5 black players with the team in the bus on the way to play a game!!!

        No discussion – Lawless Naido Instructed!!!

  • Paul Sillifant says:

    David Teeger has the right of free speech and it would be a sad day if he is sanctioned due to the populist views of others. The death toll of civilians is sad but who is criticising Hamas for using them as human shields.

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Lets not get carried away here,He was on the plartform wearing the colours of the country, representing the country, so legally he was on national duty he would then be wrong to use the opportunity to present his views which contradict that of the government he had taken the responsibility to represent, in his private life he has every right to give his personal views, as a diplomat you always observe policy and refrain from personal issue, if he felt strongly about his views he should have refused to represent the country and site his personal conflict

      • Geoff Coles says:

        Would you apply this to an under 15 year old captain of some SA team….or even a member. It seems you might.

        • Bob Dubery says:

          This is a good point. You can’t treat, say, an 11 year old as you would a late teenager. Teeger can be trialled as an adult, an U15 captain cannot. Teeger can vote, an U15 captain cannot. But is the U15 captain as likely to see what Teeger said?

          At some point we expect people to be accountable for what they do, and to understand that there are obligations attached to their position.

          So I don’t think it’s a given that an U15 captain would be held to the same standard.

          Do we have a representative U15 team?

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        And the Muslim minister – Phoning Hamas from a South African government office and phone?????

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          Hamas is not designated terrorist organisation in south hence a muslim minister can call them from a government phone without any red flags and i am noy aware of a muslim department in south africa that has an appointed minister unless of course he is a minister in another portfolio but is of the muslim faith then will be inappropiate to identify people by their faith or religion same like using the terrorist design of Hamas that was done by a foreign country to suit support of an ally that is doing terrorist actions on a defenceless and occupied nation, i will never agree with the opportunistic attack on innocent Israel civillians, it was a lazy act for Hamas to do, its the security forces that harm the Palestinians everyday who would make an understandable target in this situation, lets not act on what selfish foreign western nations expect us do we have a fair constitution in this country, America vetoed the call to stop the war that has claimed over 15000 lives maybe they should not be called on government phones for their contributions in the genocide in Gaza

      • Jack J says:

        Ah please hes 18 years old having barely made a public appearance give him a break.

      • Ben Harper says:

        No he wasn’t

  • Steve Marks says:

    Support for the self defence of a sovereign country should not be restricted. Dedicating his award to soldiers and a country at war with a death cult is in line with everything civilised we hold dear.
    God bless him

    • Ivan van Heerden says:

      100000% THE ONLY party calling for genocide is Hamas with it’s cute “From the river to the sea” call for ethnic cleansing. Perhaps someone should explain genocide to the muppets from BDS, it’s what happened to the Jews in WW2, not doubling the population of Gaza which is what has happened since 2005.

    • Stand For Truth says:

      There once a thief that, that stole a house and banished the owners to the garage.
      The thief denied the owner basic necessities and kept him and his family as prisoners.
      After many years the owner rebelled, the thief hired the the support of a gangster to keep the 120 neighbours silent.
      The thief then murdered his children an women folk,denying him water and electricity.
      The gangster parked his army around the house to prevent the neighbours from helping the owner.
      After 6 weeks the gangster had a hint of guilt and asked the thief to respect the law.
      But the thief won’t listen.
      Who is more guilty the thief or the gangster?

    • Ryan Van Heerden says:

      Well Said

    • Gerrie Pretorius says:

      Amen

    • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

      Unfortunately he cannot do so whilst wearing the colours of a democratic country and in a plartform representing the country, not all south africans share his views, they sign contracts and i can assure you he is already on breach of a contract that he signed and promised to uphold

  • Anton Kannemeyer says:

    Good article, thanks! We must protect our freedom of speech at all costs. Debate is the way forward. And I agree: “Too much shouting, too little listening.”

    • Stand For Truth says:

      Denying 2 million people water,electricity and food, killing 6 ooo children. Is that what you hold dear?

    • Stand For Truth says:

      Denying millions of innocent people the basic necessities of water and health care and killing women and children, would be a good start to a debate

      • Gerrie Pretorius says:

        A good start will be “Which side drew first blood in this current conflict”

        • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

          Stop being lazy where were you sleeping because you definately woke up from your deep sleep and saw october the 7th and Hamas, Israel has been drawing blood for 75years yes Hamas attacked wrong unarmed civillians we always condemn that although this seems to be the only understandable language in that country but innocent woman and children should be spared as much as i dont feel your comment is fair Gerrie it is my duty to protect your family if they not a threat to anyone Israel has the same moral duty towards the innocent Palestinians they occupy athough Israel and morals are water and oil

  • Stand For Truth says:

    Does free speech include supporting a genocide?

    • Alexis Kriel says:

      Genocide meaning: “the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group.” If Israel had wanted to embark on a genocide of the Palestinian people, they would have just bombed the whole of Gaza, indiscriminately – and in one fell swoop – which they have not done. In fact, the IDF is the only army in the world that warns civilians when a military strike is pending and in order to give them time to move away and save themselves. The same can not be said of Hamas, which has in its charter the following wording: ‘The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day. No one can renounce it or any part, or abandon it or any part of it.’ ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Moslems fight Jews and kill them. Then, the Jews will hide behind rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will cry out: ‘O Moslem, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him.’ (Article 7) (Article 11) original charter was criticized for its violent language against all Jews, which many commentators have characterized as incitement to genocide.
      Many Christians consider the region of historic Palestine to be sacred, along with Muslims and Jews. The cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem feature heavily in the Bible’s account of the life story of Jesus. Jesus – as the bible says, was born in Bethlehem, which is now part of the Palestinian territories. It is understood that Jesus was a Jew, and the “Last Supper” was a Pesach Seder. In fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians live peacefully together in Israel. Muslims do not have a right to declare Israel an Islamic Waqf [Holy Possession] consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgment Day.

      • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

        warn them and bomb them along the way whilst running to where the tell them to go, for your information Gaza is a closed enclave with no exit and the entrance is blocked and controlled by Israel this is pure Genocide doing it it slowly and in one swop doesnt change anything, can you passionately read the history of Palestine and the formation of the illegal state of Israel, i know you can do it i see how much effort you put in understanding Genocide although it has never happened in one swop in history, the Jew holocaust in Berlin which Israel is applying now also happened in the current manner

  • Frank Gonsenhauser says:

    Do the BDS agree with and support the genocidiers who visciously murdered 1400 Isrealis, most of whom were undoubtedly civilians.

    • Stand For Truth says:

      Do you agree and support that 15000 people have been killed, “most of whom were undoubtedly civilians”

      • Stand For Truth says:

        It be best that”the little Jewish boy” keep “out this sordid affair” till he learns the decorum of representing his country, and not voicing his personal opinions on a highly sensitive matter

        • Alexis Kriel says:

          Do you have children? And are they “little Christians” or “little Muslims”? Calm down Sam Park – you sound completely hysterical.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          David Teeger. An extraordinary young man, Head Boy of KES, observant Jew who observes the Sabbath and walks to cricket matches, prodigiously talented cricketer (Grandson of the legendary Ali Bacher), winner of the “Rising Star Award” in a community notorious for individuals who punch above their weight (the Jewish community) … on the fast-track to greatness.

          Sam Park? I’ve never heard of him

      • Pieter van de Venter says:

        In reply to the attacks over many years fro Hamas that refuses any and all suggestions to settle, yes. Now after the break in hostilities, three gunmen opened fire again on Israelis at a busstop.

      • Rod H MacLeod says:

        Where do you get 15,000 from? Some days its 10,000, some days 12,000 and now 15,000? Are we to believe that these people die in round numbers of 1,000? Why isn’t the exact number reported? Because there isn’t one. You’re quoting hamas propaganda broadcasts.

      • Jack J says:

        You didnt answer the question

  • Stand For Truth says:

    Free speech is selective.
    It is criminal to critique Isreal in France or the king in Britain

  • Bennie Morani says:

    It would be interesting to hear the comments of these readers had the young man praised Russia for defending the homeland against fascism. Free speech!

  • Johan Daniel says:

    It’s remarkable a Jewish boy has progressed this far considering CSA racist selection policies to begin with.

    Now, the CSA seeks counsel from the PSA, an organization that openly supported the 7th Oct massacre? Despite CSA legitimising the PSA, as an organisation they can’t even accept credit card donations, meaning they can’t pass basic financial compliance checks!

    There are two options:
    A) Investigate all players commenting on the war.
    B) Apologize and reinstate Mr. Teeger.
    Anything else is Anti-Semitic, A new low for an organisation that was run by Dr Ali Bacher during the period of reconciliation!

    This saga hampers national development, as selection policy seems influenced by race and conformity to national opinions, curtailing a player’s freedom of speech. If top talents must align with government views, expect an “exodus” of cricketing talent, and more Labuschagne’s winning the CWC with Australia.

    The CSA should also consult with the PSA about changing the squad name from “Proteas” to “Artichokes” while also insisting on one of the key eligibility requirements for playing for SA is whether you agree with the ANC’s stance on everything. You know the important stuff that wins cricket games…

  • Allan Wolman Wolman says:

    Remember the case of Justice Moegeng Moegeng who was forced to make an apology for a personal view construed as a political statement juxtaposed to when Sirajudien Desai made ‘non-political’ remarks in support of the Palestinian cause. Different strokes for different folks

  • Ryan Van Heerden says:

    What a bunch of plonkers… Teeger is expressing support for the only Democracy in the Middle East. Stuff these vocal supporters of global terror. Tell them to put a cork in it.

  • Pieter van de Venter says:

    Very well set out. This BDS (BDSM) organisation, is becoming an organisation peddling hate and threats. As against SA Rugby when they “reported” the possibility of violence if a team from Israel participates. Now this again against Teeger. It is nothing short of terrorism that BDS is selling to enhance their views.

    It does not matter that I do not share young Teeger’s views, and that I do not share BDSM’s views. The fact is, only one threatened the other for expressing their views – and again it is BDSM.

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    Headlines in 2030:

    Teeger captains England to World cup victory
    South Africa chokes in the semi’s, yet again

  • Henry Coppens says:

    The pro Hamas insist that Israel is commiting genocide. Genocide is the deliberate killing of a group of people because of who they are. Israel have never said they intend to kill Palestinians against whom they have no argument. Rather, they have stated they are after Hamas and the freedom of the Israeli hostages, and that it is most regretable that so many deaths of innocent Palestinians have occurred.
    Besides, this is what happens in ANY war and why wars are so terrible.
    But, Israel is not doing genocide. Their aim is Hamas. If Israel is genocidal, does this then mean that Germany, Britain in WWI, II and others committed genocide when hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians were killed? No, of course not. The holocaust in Germany’s case is obviously exclude because it was genocide. There is a big difference in killing people because of who they are compared to what they do. Israel is going after Hamas because of what they intend to do – obliterate Israel, or have done (Oct 7). Hamas is going after Israel because of who they are – Jewish – the same as what Germany did to the Jews in the holocaust. So it is Hamas that is intent on genocide, not Israel. The Pro Hamas are just deflecting from their real intent – genocide and no democracy.
    Moreover, the servants of Hitler, Himmler, etc often showed remorse at the treatment of the Jews. Ref the Nuremburg trails. BUT on many occassions Hamas expressed glee and jubiliation when they slaughtered Israelis on Oct 7.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution, and he should be allowed to say what he feels. If not all those shouting anti-semitism chants should also be investigated

  • concerned individual says:

    Chilling that a powerful advocate of the supreme court would agree to “investigate” a Jewish teenager for a statement he made which is not only opinion but in the context of Jews worldwide being increasingly fearful about their physical safety, a statement understandably arrived at. By a teenager or adult. One wonders what the motivations were to accept such an “investigation” were?

    Germany cica 1938 vibes.

    Is Wim related to John who per google publicly advocates boycotting Israel, and if so can this be perceived as affecting the objectivity of this important “investigation” of this teenager?

  • Gretha Erasmus says:

    Many sportsmen have showed their solidarity with Palestinians but one teenager supports Israel and he gets hauled off to an inquiry? So the South African Jewish Report reported that this year in Joburg Sandton City and Norwood Mall both cancelled their annual Chanukah candle lighting ceremony, Sandton City hosted it for 25 years but this year it is cancelled due to fear for shoppers and shopkeepers. At Wits Medical School the 4 Jewish students in the final year of medical school were not part of the class photo because of ruckus caused by pro Palestinian medical students. I feel really really sorry for Jewish South Africans, they are really being scapegoated.

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