Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha

Johannesburg - Model and actress Shashi Naidoo has finally spoken out after her dramatic exit from Israel, after she had planned to go on educational trip to understand the Palestine-Israel conflict. 

Naidoo said that her trip, which lasted less than 48 hours, resulted in a two-hour interrogation session by Israeli authorities as she was on her way to Palestine.

“I don't accept the rationale that I was going in to accept that I was going in to cause harm as they put it. I had made it clear from the beginning that I wanted to go as part of an education,” said Naidoo. 

“There was a lot of anxiety with my mom and I, because we were warned before,” she said. 

The model described her experience as a ‘mental warfare’ because the Israeli authorities had singled her out and searched her from the minute she walk into the border.

The media personality was welcomed back home by Nelson Mandela's grandson and member of parliament, Chief Mandla Mandela, who gave her a personal call with words of encouragement. 

She said the trip did not radicalise her in an way but opened her eyes to the humanitarian issue facing Palestine.  

“I maintain that this is not a religious issue but a humanitarian issue… All I wanted was to enter Palestine and see for myself, I communicated that to the Israeli authorities but still I was refused entry,” she said.

Naidoo was barred for 10 years from Israel in order to "see for herself" Israeli oppression against Palestinians. 

Israel’s deputy ambassador to South Africa, Ayellet Black, said Naidoo was denied entry at the Israeli checkpoint because her trip was planned by the South African branch of the BDS, and that it would “harm” Israel.
  
Prior to her travel, she had said she would be travelling at her own expense, and the itinerary of her trip was planned by the South African Council of Churches and South African Jews for a Free Palestine.

Mandela prior to her arrival issued out a statement that Israel showed its true Apartheid colours by denying the media personality entry to Palestine and recommended that the Israeli ambassador to South Africa to go back home.
  
“I call on the South African government to send the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa packing,"

“We strongly condemn Apartheid Israel's refusal of entry to Palestine for Shashi Naidoo and this reveals the true Apartheid character of the occupation. The denial of entry shows that apartheid Israel treats the occupied territories of Palestine as a bantustan in which it is the sole arbiter of access.  This denial is not only tantamount to an infringement of fundamental human rights, it also violates the sovereignty of the Palestinian state,” said Mandela. 

For Mandela’s grandson, the authoritarian behaviour denied the well-known model, actress and TV personality,  for “seeing for herself” the Israeli oppression against Palestinians.

“This heinous act comes in the wake of Israel's racist legislation passed recently effectively making non-Jews second-class citizens in the land of their birth,” he added. 

Mandela called on Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu and the government to quickly implement the downgrade resolution to the situation in Israel,  “as an expression of indignation toward Apartheid Israel's arrogance and acts of impunity,” said Mandela. 

Naidoo was expected to make the trip to Israel after she publicly apologised for her uninformed comments made on social media, about the current situation in the country. 

Naidoo received heavy criticism for her remarks about Gaza after she referred to Gaza as "a sh*thole" during a debate about the Palestine-Israel conflict with an Instagram user. 

In an attempt to sound smart, she ‘copied and pasted’ a comment from a friend.

The last time Naidoo has posted anything on her social media was in June shortly after the backlash, where she requested to take a break from all platforms. 

Naidoo joins a growing list of South Africans who have been denied passage to Palestine including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Minister Blade Nzimande, World Council of Churches leader Isabel Phiri and many others. 

BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana said in a statement: “Israeli authorities control access to Palestine and blocked her on the orders of Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and the recommendation of Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.” 

“Israel is yet again exposing its lie that it is open to “objective” visitors,” said Kekana. 

South African Jewish Board of Deputies spokesperson Shaun Zagnoev weighed in on the model’s ban and said Naidoo’s effort educate herself about the region and the conflict was welcomed.

“Unfortunately, she has chosen to do so through the BDS organisation. The BDS is based on the premise that Israel should be boycotted until it ceases to exist as a Jewish state,” said Zagnoev. 

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The Star