South Africa model on ‘re-education tour’ banned by Israel

South_Africa_model_Shashi_Naidoo
South African model, Shashi Naidoo

A South African model, who has given her backing to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, is the latest celebrity to be banned from entering Palestine by Israeli authorities.

Model and actress Shashi Naidoo, received a ten-year ban while attempting to enter the West Bank for an educational tour of the occupied territory. It was meant to be a trip of discovery for the 37-year-old. She had previously spoken of Israel in glowing terms on social media, describing the Jewish state as “the antithesis of an apartheid state”.

Naidoo appeared to have swallowed Israeli propaganda, describing  the Gaza Strip as “a shithole of immense proportions to her Instagram followers” while parroting the claim that the Strip had not been occupied since 2005 when Israeli forces left the territory and imposed a brutal siege.

Her comments drew criticism from her many followers as well as encouragement from some to open her eyes and learn about the true nature of Israeli occupation of Palestine. Naidoo accepted the offer. She said that she had approached the BDS group in South Africa and agreed to take part in “a fact-finding visit to Palestine” led by the South African Council of Churches and South African Jews for a Free Palestine in which she would be “re-educated”.

Naidoo attempted to enter West Bank through the Allenby Border Crossing after visiting Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan. She said she had been interrogated at the border, and her passport was stamped – preventing her from returning for a decade.

Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black, told South African media that Naidoo was denied entry at the Israeli checkpoint because her trip was planned by the South African branch of BDS, and that it would “harm” Israel.

Naidoo’s banning is not an isolated incident, and she joins a growing list of Africans who have been banned by Israel. In May, Israeli security forces denied Ghanaian Member of Parliament, Ras Mubarak, entry to Palestine. He had been invited by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to give a speech in Ramallah and had been issued a permit by the Israeli authorities prior to arriving at the Jordanian border. However, upon reaching the Allenby crossing, Mubarak was refused access to the occupied territories and was forced to return to Amman.

#BDS

In December 2016, Associate General-Secretary for the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri from Malawi, was banned from entering Israel after landing at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The Christian theologian was attending a WCC meeting in the holy city of Jerusalem.

In April 2015, South Africa’s then Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, was also denied entry while en-route to Ramallah to promote research collaboration between the University of Johannesburg and institutions in the occupied territory.

Other notable Africans that have been denied entry include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Justice Richard Goldstone. Israel has also detained, interrogated and deported an increasing number of Christian volunteers with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel/Palestine (EAPPI).